It’s not hard to imagine why Bryan Postma’s list of military accomplishments would earn him a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Postma, a Petty Officer 2nd Class with 18 years experience in the Canadian Navy, completed two tours in southwest Asia on the HMCS Toronto, embarked on a NATO Article 5 defense mission between Israel and Palestine and helped clear away the debris left behind when Swissair Flight 111 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Peggy’s Cove in September 1998.
“I was part of a recovery team that collected whatever was floating on the water or washed up on the shore. We bagged up debris and body parts and sent them ashore to another group to sort and catalogue,” said Postma, noting that he was one of many involved in Operation Persistence.
The Swissair crash claimed 229 lives.
“The Swiss government presented us all with Swiss army knives with the inscription ‘thank you Canadian Navy’ on them.”
In February 2002, the Woodville resident was part of a boarding party of six men from the HMCS Toronto that found a large quantity of hashish on a small wooden vessel abandoned in the Arabian Sea.
“We found a boat that was circling around so it was like a navigational hazard so we went over and investigated and there was smoke coming out of it. The crew that was on it abandoned it because they seen our ship in the area,” Postma recalled.
He says they started “rooting through the cargo” and discovered “stacks and stacks and stacks of blocks of hash.”
Postma, a native of Upper Burlington, says the find landed the crew on the cover of many major newspapers.
Media reports dating back to the discovery say an estimated total of two tonnes of hash, in 70 to 90 packages marked “Freedom for Afghanistan,” were confiscated.
“When you’re going and doing stuff you don’t really think about what you’re doing. You’re just doing your job.” - Brian Postma
Postma says belonging to a boarding party scouring ships that are “half sinking” was both exciting and unnerving for a man who is terrified of water.
“I’m afraid to death of water,” he said with a laugh.
“As long as you’re on top of it you’re fine, but when you’re in it that’s a different story.”
He admits certain tasks were trying at times — and he had quite a scare when a broken ladder once sent him plunging into the Persian Gulf — but pride for what he is doing carries him through the difficult assignments.
“When you’re going and doing stuff you don’t really think about what you’re doing. You’re just doing your job,” he said, later adding: “You’re well trained and you’re confident about yourself and, hopefully, your team is just as confident.”
Postma says some of the onshore highlights of his career included clearing large trees downed by Hurricane Juan from the streets of downtown Halifax in September 2003, and starting a fundraising campaign that raised $1,200 for the pregnant widow of an American sailor stabbed to death during a brawl on Argyle Street in Halifax in November 2006.
When a supervisor advised him he would be nominated for a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Postma said it felt good to know someone felt he contributed to the wellbeing of society in some way.
“I’ve accomplished pretty much everything a sailor could expect to do I guess.”