North Bay Armed Forces Day celebrated virtually this year

There were no loud cheers or parachuting demo team at North Bay’s Lake Nipissing waterfront this year. Despite all this, Wednesday marked North Bay's Armed Forces Day, one of the largest military celebrations in the country.

"It gives us the sense of pride of the uniform that we wear. Today is the day to recognize our members for what they do," said 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base Commander Col. Mark Lachapelle.

Under normal circumstances, the military men and women of 22 Wing/CFB North Bay would put on air displays at the waterfront in front of a roaring crowd. But, this Armed Forces Day is a bit different as celebrations move online.

The City of North Bay and 22 Wing released a video highlighting the work the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Air Force do on base. North Bay Mayor Al McDonald is honouring his military family in his life.

"My dad was a fighter pilot and his job was actually intercepting Russian bombers as they came over the polar cap," McDonald said.

His two grandfathers also fought in WWII.

As part of Armed Forces Day, base personnel and the city asked people to wear red to honour those who don the uniform.

There are 600 men and women from both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Air Force located at the Canadian Forces Base in North Bay. They are responsible for 24-hour surveillance and identification of 200,000 flights per year approaching Canada and North America. But Lachapelle says there are also many members behind the scenes who play a key role as well.

"The focus is always the mission, but we have additional roles in supporting that mission, whether you're a cook or doing the medical support to our members," he said.

Besides their normal duties as aerospace guardians, base personnel has been out in the community taking part in events. Most notably, the 22 Wing Cares Food Drive at Christmas time. This food drive collects food and money donations for the food bank.

"They coach hockey and sports and get involved in our community and we're very proud to have them here in our city,” McDonald said of the local military members.

While the base is slightly disappointed it couldn't hold an armed forces bash because of the ongoing health crisis, Lachapelle said the team is working with the city in hopes of hosting a huge celebration next year.