For Karen MacKinnon, it was “the second best day of my life”—second only to the one on which she and her husband, Gerard, then a pilot-in-training, were married. Her latest celebration began on Wednesday night, as she sat alone in the living room of the couple’s three-bedroom bungalow in Cold Lake, Alta., watching the televised announcement about the ceasefire in the Gulf War. Then, things got even better for Karen, 27, when her husband, a CF-18 pilot based with Canada's forces in Qatar, telephoned unexpectedly. “He called two minutes after President Bush announced a ceasefire,” Karen MacKinnon told Maclean’s, “so I gave him the news. He hadn’t heard.” Her husband was delighted, although he had suspected that something
was imminent. “They woke him up to tell him to stay in bed because that day’s mission had been cancelled,” she said.
Nowhere in the country was relief at the ceasefire felt more strongly than among the families of Canadians serving in the Gulf. Tammy Libby, 26, of Chester Basin, N.S., has not seen her husband, Eric, a navy engineer, since Aug. 24, when he left for the region aboard the HMCS Athabaskan. She told Maclean’s: “This is the longest we have ever been separated.” Looking forward to their reunion, Libby added: “There are butterflies in my stomach. I’m already planning what I will wear. It is just like a first date.”
While there remained uncertainty about exactly when Canada’s forces in the Gulf would be coming home—likely no sooner than midMarch for most of them—the worst moments of concern were plainly over. Marion Kendall, 42, the wife of Cold Lake CF-18 pilot Maj. David Kendall, said: “I am glad it was swift, with the least amount of suffering for the allies. One
month ago, we faced a dreadfully long war.” Agreed Karen MacKinnon: “It has been a difficult time, the worst month of my life, really frightening.”
As Canada's pilots sweltered through their last days in Qatar, their families back in Cold Lake frolicked outdoors in -28° C temperatures at the base’s annual threeday winter carnival, which featured snowshoe races against a backdrop of snow sculptures of Winnie the Pooh and other cartoon characters. Ruthann Ryan, 35, the wife of CF-18 pilot William Ryan, for one, predicted that her husband would have some adjusting to do when he returns. “He will need a week to get used to the climate again,” she told Maclean’s. Despite that abrupt change in surroundings, it was just the kind of adjustment that returning Canadian forces wanted to make.
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