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I wish I could have said goodbye

April 2020

I met Belinda Jones, also known as “B”, while serving on board the Royal Canadian Navy training ship HMCS Porte St. Louis in the summer of 1989. HMCS Porte St. Louis was one of the Gate Vessel class of ships, colloquially known as “Pig Boats.”

Both of us were serving in the navy reserve at the time, me as a Naval Signalman and she as a Diesel Mechanic. We both held the rank of Leading Seaman.

Belinda was soft-spoken and very pleasant to be around. She was pretty with blond hair that was usually kept tied back in accordance with military regulations, but fell just past her shoulders when she let it down off-duty.

I found myself attracted to her, but I can’t remember if I ever asked her on a date when we came ashore each weekend. She wasn’t from my reserve unit, and I know that long-distance relationships are notoriously hard to maintain, so I may not have bothered (or she may have turned me down if I did – ha, ha). Thirty-one years later, I can’t remember those details.

After the summer ended, we all returned to our respective reserve units and I lost touch with her. Time went on and so did life, but I never forgot about her.

I remained with the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for another 11 years, serving on full-time reserve status as a Military Policeman for 2 years, then reverting back to a Naval Signalman (and part-time) for the last years of my service.

I then released from the navy and began a career as a (civilian) police officer.

After I joined Facebook in 2007, I would run her name though the search feature now and again, but her name never came up. I would later find out why.

In April 2020, I saw a posting in a Facebook group that I belong to, the “Pig Boat Sailors Alumni Association.” It was a picture of Belinda, with the caption, “Belinda Jones (RIP) in sunglasses.”

It turns out Belinda died of cancer 16 1/2 years earlier, on 29 September 2003.

After the summer of 1989, Belinda joined the RCMP, beginning training at the Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan, on 29 January 1990.

Her twin sister Amanda also joined the RCMP and is now a Chief Superintendent and the commanding officer of “V” Division in Nunavut Territory.

After recruit training, Belinda was posted to “E” Division in British Columbia. She later got married and was working as a dog handler at the Kelowna Detachment when she died at the far too young age of 37.

Even though I only knew her briefly, and have no idea if she felt any attraction to me too, I never forgot her. I kept some pictures that I took of her in my photo album from that summer. Amanda mentioned in a post that Belinda had said before she died that she was worried no one would remember her. Well, she is remembered.

I remember fondly the time she gave me a haircut on the quarter deck (the back of the ship) one weekend when we were in harbour, when I couldn’t make it to a barber.

I know we can’t stay in touch with all the people who come in and out of our lives, and frankly there are some with whom we don’t want to stay in touch, (something that might be mutual), but I wish I had at least reconnected with her towards the end. We could have shared stories of our mutual policing careers, which have ups and downs that frequently only a fellow police officer can understand.

I also could have said goodbye.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/i-wish-i-could-have-said-goodbye/

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