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  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Presentation of Decorations for Military Valour and Decorations for Meritorious Service

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Presentation of Decorations for Military Valour and
Decorations for Meritorious Service

Rideau Hall, Friday, June 4, 2010

We are celebrating Canadian Forces Day this Sunday, and so what better opportunity to honour members of the Forces who have distinguished themselves through their valour or through their exemplary merit.

Moreover, I am told that some of you have barely had time to catch your breath after taking part in the Red Shirt Walk/Run through the streets of Ottawa this morning, an event organized for the occasion.

This is notably true of our Chief of the Defence Staff, and we can see that he is ready to face any situation, especially when it comes to recognizing the contributions made by the women and men under his command.

To use a military expression, it is called, “leading from the front, leading by example.” And it is a principle that all of you here have put into practice, whether as part of your missions or your service.

Some of you have been deployed to the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden to help transport food, and to combat terrorism and piracy, alongside the Combined Force.

Others have worked here in Canada and have saved lives in perilous conditions.

Still others have worked tirelessly on projects of great importance and shown extraordinary leadership.

Your service shows the highest standards of professionalism and commitment.

But the majority of you were on missions in Afghanistan, including all those receiving decorations for valour, a courage that surpasses understanding and defies the impossible.

We know that your missions are dangerous.

Every repatriation ceremony is a cruel reminder of this.

We can only imagine the pain experienced by families and friends who have lost a loved one in Afghanistan, and I feel privileged when they allow me to support them on the tarmac at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

As Commander-in-Chief, I want you to know how happy I am that you have returned safely.

I have had two opportunities to go observe your efforts on the ground, in a country on the other side of the world, where an entire population is being deprived of its most fundamental rights.

Whenever I hear of the success of one of your missions over there, I think of all the members of the Canadian Forces I have met, who repeatedly told me that security is key to development.

I also think of the children—their eyes full of dreams, but already so resilient—with whom I have spoken and who should, like our own children, not have to live in fear of stepping on a mine.

I think of the Afghan women who welcomed me so warmly, whose daily lives are a lesson in courage, not to mention survival.

I think of the women and men from civil society who told me about the difficulties they are facing and the efforts they are making to rebuild their country.

I think of the medical team, which works continuously to care for and heal the bodies of military personnel and civilians who have been so unfairly wounded.

And in my heart of hearts, I dare to dream that, thanks to you, the children, women and men of Afghanistan—of whom I will always have enduring memories—will one day escape the yolk of oppression, violence and misery.

For me, this is the hope represented in the magnificent works of military artist Karen Bailey—who is here with us today.

I invite you all to discover some of the moving pieces she painted while she was in Afghanistan in June 2007.

They are being exhibited exclusively in the Reception Room on the occasion of this ceremony and to highlight Canadian Forces Day.

Ms. Bailey’s paintings echo the pride I feel today and the recognition of your fellow Canadians for your commitment.

Without your unique contribution, and without the support of members of your families—a number of whom are with you here today— the Canadian Forces could not accomplish as much as it does.

I would like to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.