June 29: Sarnia, ON - Red Suits & Blue Suits

Yesterday, we made reference to the Canadian Snowbirds Demonstration Team who we had the pleasure to meet and socialize with prior to their airshow in Sarnia today.

We spoke of the cohesion that they enjoy as a team despite the fact that they wear two different coloured uniforms.  In the military this is very unique and in fact, it contradicts the very word uniform in which everything should be consistent.

Snowbirds officers and pilots wear red flightsuits while the support personnel wear blue flightsuits. They affectionately refer to themselves as “red suits” and “blue suits”.

While the red suits get much of the glory, they wouldn’t get very far with a faulty instrument or without an engine.  The red suits will quickly tell you that the blue suits are more important than they are, for without them, there is no airshow or fly-over.

Today, for the Portraits of Honour National Tour, it was a blue suits day, one of those days were you realize how fortunate we are for the support we get behind the scenes. 

It started out with some dedicated graphics professionals who travelled several hours to meet up with the tour to apply some new vinyl graphics onto the trailer.  They started their day at 06:00h and worked through the noon hour until the trailer had to depart to the shores of Lake Huron for their event.  Without the support of these “blue suits” we wouldn’t be able to get our message out as we travel thousands of miles across our nation’s highways.

Our event the night before was held at the Holiday Inn and our 53’ trailer had been carefully wedged into a parking lot that was clearly not designed for such a large vehicle.   It took amazing skill and precision of our “blue suit” driver Paul to get it clear and soon it was time to say thank you to the Holiday Inn for donating our rooms.  We need “blue suit” folks like them behind the scenes to ensure our crew gets rest.  We also owe thanks to Dennis Ryan from Huron Flight School for arranging everything and inviting us to attend his airshow event.

Arriving at Canatara Park, we were immediately met by a group of dedicated volunteers from the Sarnia Kinsmen.  These “blue suits” assisted us last night and were back ready to do whatever was asked of them. 

One of these fine men, “Handyman John” even arranged to get some graphics materials that we required.  Within an hour of our request, he had gone and picked it up and delivered it back to us.  This was a job that would normally take a day to turn around.  When offered payment, he refused to take any and said, “it is covered.”  Now that is “blue suit” service at its best.

It wasn’t long after that a local O.P.P. Sergeant stopped by to check on the details of the police escort that he offered to bring us from Sarnia to Wallaceburg tomorrow.  The O.P.P. had called us to offer the escort.  I guess there is a reason those guys wear blue suits.

Yes, we had the normal emotional moments that we’ve come to expect including a private visit from the family of Sarnia native, Corporal Brent Poland.  It was their first time seeing their son on the mural and they were overwhelmed.  Mrs. Poland left the stage and with a quivering voice simply said, “it’s amazing.”  We also received visits from local dignitaries including Bob Bailey, MPP for Sarnia-Lambton and Sarnia Police Chief Phil Nelson and some his officers.  A special moment was experienced by the cousin of Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht who wept before her cousin's portrait on the far right side of the mural.  The aunt of Master Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer stopped by.  Every visit from the families of our fallen heroes is always so special.

Of course some of the “red suits” -- artist Dave and tour organizer Sean -- were front and centre on the POH stage, speaking with media, dignitaries and visitors while the other red suits from the Canadian Snowbirds flew in tight formation thousands of feet above the estimated crowd of 8,000.  But where would POH or the Snowbirds be without the blue suit support that was occurring behind the scenes?  They would be parked.

The day wrapped up with the local Sarnia Kin (Bruce, Gord, John, Bob and Henry) inviting our tour team to be their guests at a local restaurant.  It was relaxing and great fellowship.  Just what our team needed.

As the conversation flowed the team happened to mention that we required some automotive supplies and wouldn’t you know it, one of the Kin happened to be in the automotive supply business.  He quickly offered to deliver the supplies to Wallaceburg tomorrow.  

Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but he was wearing the crisp blue uniform of a captain in the Air Force Reserves.