National Silver Cross Mother

The Memorial Cross (more often referred to as the Silver Cross) was first authorized on December 1, 1919 as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice on the part of widows and mothers of Canadian sailors, aviators and soldiers who died for their country during the war.

Today, the National Silver Cross Mother is chosen by the Legion among nominations made by Legion Provincial Commands and individuals to represent the mothers of Canada at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa. During her tenure, which starts on November 1, the National Silver Cross Mother fulfills other official functions.

 

2020 National Silver Cross Mother – Mrs. Debbie Sullivan

Mrs. Sullivan's son, LT(N) Christopher Edward Saunders was a Naval Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. Chris was killed during a tragic fire while serving aboard HMCS Chicoutimi on October 6, 2004.

As the National Silver Cross Mother, Mrs. Sullivan places a wreath at the National War Memorial on 11 November on behalf of all Canadian mothers who have lost a son or a daughter in the military service of Canada. Throughout the year until October, 2021, she will also be called upon to perform other duties honouring the Fallen from all conflicts.

Biography

Mrs. Debbie Sullivan

Debbie Sullivan grew up in the countryside near Saint John, New Brunswick. The years unfolded to include two energetic children and rewarding work as a crisis counsellor, a truck driver and service in the Canadian Army Reserve.

As a young girl, Debbie was a member of the Westfield United Church and choir. She took part in Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT), which she credits for a great start in life. Her personal foundation was additionally shaped during her time in Sea Cadets.

Graduating from Rothesay Regional High School where she studied business, she went on to pursue legal secretarial studies at Compu College in Saint John. Her son Christopher, was born in 1972 and her daughter Melissa arrived a few years later.

When her children were young, Debbie took on a volunteer support role helping seniors run businesses and pay bills, and network to get the help they needed. Later as a crisis line counsellor and member of a multi-disciplinary task force on crisis intervention, she volunteered with the Rothesay Regional and Saint John Police Departments.

Debbie then served in the Army Reserves from 1990-1994 working on Administration, Logistics, and Recruiting. When she met her husband Stuart Sullivan, he had completed his service as an artilleryman with the 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2RCHA) in the regular forces. The two married in 1994. Debbie went on to take a course in driving semi-trucks, one of her husband’s interests. As newlyweds, it kept them together, and the pair drove all over Canada and the United States as a team.

Debbie’s children Chris and Melissa were active, busy kids, and while Chris eventually went on to military college, Melissa chose a role in administration and now works for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Alberta. Chris served in the Canadian Armed Forces as a Combat Systems Engineer, and was working aboard the HMCS Chicoutimi when he died.

For Debbie, Chris’ loss left deep scars. “Even though it has been sixteen years since I lost Chris, the pain of his absence is felt every day,” she says. “I cope with the help of my husband and family members as well as a grief support group I belong to.”

While in Halifax to receive the Silver Cross, Debbie met with many of her son’s former mates and peers who performed a special ceremony to make her an honourary submariner – a true thrill for her. “My husband and I know that with young men and women like them, we are in good shape for the future,” she says.

In her role as National Silver Cross Mother, Debbie says she will do her utmost to support all other Silver Cross Mothers and families, and to let them know they are not alone. Along with her recent new passion for gardening, Debbie enjoys spending time dancing, painting and fishing.


 

Biography

Christopher Edward Saunders

Lieutenant Christopher Edward Saunders

LT(N) Christopher Edward Saunders was a Naval Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, an enthusiastic submariner trained as a Combat Systems Engineer.

Born to Debbie Sullivan and Hugh Saunders on April 7, 1972 in Saint John, NB, Chris was killed during a tragic fire while serving aboard the HMCS Chicoutimi. The submarine was underway from Scotland to Canada when the fire broke out on October 6, 2004.

Chris was very active as a child, always busy with many close friends over the years. Described as growing up a happy, well-rounded boy, he had a penchant for being extremely detailed and organized, even at a young age. “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” says his mother Debbie.

During his school years, Chris seemed to gravitate towards the shy and quiet kids, helping them become more confident. With a passion for puzzles, books and board games, Chris loved baseball and golf and later became an avid mountain biker. He often talked about a career of service to others, and it is exactly what he eventually chose: to serve his country.

Chris graduated from Kennebecasis High School in Saint John with honours. He was part of the Army Reserves throughout those High School years when he received a full scholarship to military college. He attended Collège Militaire Royal de Saint Jean, in Quebec, in the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP).

After his graduation from military college, Chris was stationed in Halifax, working as a Combat Systems Engineer. He also served on other naval ships during his career. He absolutely loved the military, which became his second family, and he shared many adventures with his mates over the years.

Extremely proud and excited to become a submariner, Chris took to the role as the perfectionist he was, becoming hard on himself at times - wanting to achieve the very high standards he set for himself. He was awarded the Sacrifice Medal posthumously. In addition, his former comrades organized a yearly hockey tournament in celebration of his life. The Chris Saunders Memorial Hockey Tournament attracts military hockey teams and raises funds for a different charity each year. The community where Chris grew up also honoured him by naming the Chris Saunders Memorial Elementary School in Quispamsis, NB.

Christopher was married to his wife Gwen and they had two young sons at the time of his death. Ben and Luke were respectively two years and seven weeks old when he passed. Many years later, they are both doing very well, with Luke in High School and Ben heading off to college. 


 

 

Past recipients

Every year, Legion Provincial Commands and individuals forward nominations for the selection of a National Silver Cross Mother. These nominations are reviewed by a selection committee at Dominion Command and one mother is chosen for the year which begins on 01 November until 31 October of the following year.

Past recipients