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Inaugural Presentation of the Sacrifice Medal
Rideau Hall, Wednesday, November 12, 2008
When the Allied and enemy forces declared an armistice over 90 years ago, people around the world breathed a sigh of relief.
They had paid such a heavy price. The dead and the wounded, both military and civilian, numbered in the thousands: sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and children, for whom so many tears had been shed.
Today, after one of the bloodiest centuries in our history, barely into a new millennium, Canada once again faces the painful reality of armed conflict, this time alongside the International Security Assistance Force, in Afghanistan and in every troubled region where Canadian troops are deployed.
Truly, we must wage a never-ending fight for freedom.
A few weeks ago, I returned to Afghanistan for the second time since I became governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada.
I saw you hard at work, ensuring security and stability in that part of the world, which is coming to grips with violence, oppression and misery.
I listened as you told me about your life there, your viewpoint, your values, your hopes and your doubts.
I know about your dangerous working conditions and the enormous risks you face.
I know, too, about your deep sense of commitment and the strong ties that unite you in life and death. Abandoning your mission or your platoon is not an option for you.
Thus, despite all that you have left behind—your family, your friends and all those you hold dear—despite the risks, difficulties and occasional moments of discouragement, you would never think of your commitment to the Forces and to your assigned missions as a sacrifice.
For you, serving your country is a duty, a privilege and an honour.
Whether in the course of your duties, here in Canada, or elsewhere, or in the line of fire, when you were the target of hostilities, your lives hung in the balance, as did those of your comrades and loved ones.
Some of you were wounded physically, others emotionally.
Half of you are no longer with us to bear witness.
You have made unimaginable sacrifices in the name of justice and freedom.
Your families have done the same. We can never stress that enough.
I see many familiar faces here, too. I met a number of you on the tarmac at the Trenton military base. You allowed me to grieve with you and, for that, I thank you.
Many of you have shared your pain with me. Time eases the pain, but it never goes away.
You also proudly told me about loved ones you lost in Afghanistan.
Canadians share this pain and this pride with you.
You are not alone.
Those of you who were wounded also are not alone.
We know the price you have paid.
Your sacrifice will forever be etched into the pages of our collective history.
Like you, we believe that life is precious and valuable, to be defended, respected and cherished.
As commander-in-chief, I bow to you and express my deepest respect and gratitude.