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Parade renews Vancouver Island community's support for 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron

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It was a gesture of appreciation and respect by the town of Sidney, B.C., to the members who protect and serve Canadians across the country and around the world.

It’s called the Freedom of the Town Parade, shutting down Beacon Avenue on Thursday morning.

The Freedom Parade, was first granted to 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, based out of North Saanich, B.C., in the year 2000.

“So they can come forward as they wish to request to parade their members through the town showing their colours and their pipe and drum band,” said Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith.

The pomp and ceremony brought out a crowd, those looking to express their gratitude towards the serving members.

“I think it’s important that we should support those that are serving now,” said David Sanders who was there to support the parade.

Underneath a fly-over by one of the squadron's Cyclone helicopters, the procession landed at Sidney’s city hall.

There a proclamation was read giving 443 Squadron continued rights to parade whenever it wishes.

“It’s 100 per cent a source of pride,” said North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones.

Jones says the squadron is an important member of the community.

Thursday marked the 80th anniversary of 443 Squadron.

“We’re here to support the navy and provide wings to the fleet,” said Lt. Matt Dukowski, commanding officer of 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron.

Six Cyclone helicopters are stationed at the North Saanich base.

“Anytime a Royal Canadian Navy ship goes over the horizon, we’re right there with them as their partners,” said Dukowski. “We’ll do whatever they need us to do. We’ll extend the range of the ship as far as their sensors go.”

“We will fly 100 miles ahead of them to make sure the coast is clear.”

The cyclones are even able to perform anti-submarine warfare when required.

“I hope today’s event conveys how much we cherish our special association with the 443 Squadron,” said McNeil-Smith.

For the community and the members serving at 443 Squadron, it was a day to build on a relationship that has been going strong for many years. 

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