GORE BAY – You might say that OPP Constable Daryl Leighton of Gore Bay has service in his genes, given that his brothers are all serving. Although a career in law enforcement was always in the back of his mind, Const. Leighton signed up for a three-year stint in the navy aboard the newly launched and outfitted frigate HMCS Regina.
“We picked up the Regina brand new in Halifax,” recalled Const. Leighton. “We sailed her around to British Columbia.” It was an exciting run that included slipping through the Panama Canal and hauling keel as part of sea trials past San Diego.
“It was rough,” recalled Const. Leighton, then Ordinary Seaman Leighton. “We were doing 32 knots (that’s almost 60 km/h or 37 mph) in 32-foot swells. A 440-foot boat launching off the top of the waves.” Somewhat fittingly, the ship performed in the speed trials with flying colours.
OS Leighton was a naval combat information officer. “That’s a fancy way of saying radar operator,” he shared. On that inaugural run in heavy seas, everyone was relatively safe, albeit a bit queasy. “All the chairs had straps like seatbelts to keep you locked down,” he said. “Even the bunks had webbing that went over you to keep you from flying out while you slept.”
In fact, the ship is still serving well some 30 years later.
The three-year stint in the Canadian navy led to an opportunity to experience a very large segment of the world. Although based out of Esquimaux, British Columbia HMCS Regina participated in an East Asian tour that included Hong Kong, Singapore, North Australia, Samoa and Hawaii. “I went to 13 different countries,” he said. “It was amazing.” Unlike those serving aboard vessels during the pandemic, OS Leighton was able to go ashore and experience those very different cultures up close and first hand.
But if there was one thing that he learned from those experiences, it was a deep gratitude for where he comes from. “It made me realize how lucky we are to live here,” he said. It is something he tries to impart to his children.
But Canadian waters off the coast of British Columbia hold vivid memories for Const. Leighton. “It was amazing,” he said. “The whales, the dolphins, they were really something to see.”
OS Leighton married Terri Lynn Orford and the couple have two children, Malia (17) and Mason (15). “My wife is from the Island, that’s how we wound up coming here,” he said.
Const. Leighton has been a police officer for 14 years now, but his brother is “a lifer, 32 ½ years.
OS Leighton decided to leave the navy himself after his three-year stint was up. “I was single and navy life is tough,” he noted. It wasn’t so much the bouncing waves (“we all get seasick as some time or other”) but wanting to settle down eventually with a family. He realized the sacrifices that career military personnel families face. “I couldn’t see myself in that life—I saw that life through my brother,” he said.
Besides, there was the original dream of becoming a police officer. “Policing was always in my mind,” said Const. Leighton.
“Remembrance Day for me is about family and realizing how lucky we are to live here,” he said. The sacrifices made by so many who laid down their lives to ensure the rights and freedoms that underpin that life is reflected in the observances of the day.
Lest we forget.