When disaster strikes, the families of victims need support.
A local hero received an RCMP Certificate of Appreciation at a ceremony held in Courtenay on Nov. 3.
Garth Cameron, a 14-year veteran of the West Coast’s volunteer Search and Rescue team, was recognized for his actions during a recovery effort to find the remains of a father and son who died in a plane crash on Vargas Island Dec. 14, 2013.
In a letter announcing the award, Island District RCMP Chief Superintendent Ray Bernoties said Cameron was a vital source of leadership during the search, ensuring the remains were handled respectfully and the victim’s family members, and volunteer searchers, were taken care of.
“His expertise, team building abilities, organization and leadership skills ensured that this difficult task was completed with the respect the families deserved,” Bernoties wrote. “His loyal support to the RCMP, the Search and Rescue team and his community bring credit to himself and are in keeping with the highest standards of a Canadian Citizen.”
Cameron told the Westerly he was humbled and honoured to receive the certificate.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “It was humbling to be recognized for what I do.”
He said he has been involved in about 10 body recoveries on the West Coast and, while the work is demanding both physically and emotionally, he is driven to do it by his compassion and love for people.
“Out of those body recoveries, three were close friends of mine,” he said.
“It’s a humbling experience for me but I have a great honour to provide that service for families because not everybody can do that. It’s pretty nasty business.”
He added his commitment to the cause is fuelled by families, not certificates.
“I don’t do it for the recognition…I do what I do for those who are on the receiving end of what I do,” he said. “It’s somebody’s loved one. It’s a family member…When the family comes out, they make a great effort to recover as much of the remains as possible to take home so they have some closure. So they have something to bury, and that’s extremely important.
“People are hurting and they want their loved ones home whether they’re still alive or not. It’s very humbling to provide that service. It’s an honour to provide that service and I’m full of compassion when I do it. The bodies that I have handled are handled with great respect.”
He added he could not do what he does without the unwavering support he receives from his wife Holly and four children.
“I can do what I do because my family stands behind me. If my wife and my kids did not support me the way that they do, the service that I provide would be impossible,” he said. “In the certificate, I’m recognized, but it goes to my wife and my kids as well.”