Order of Military Merit Investiture Ceremony
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Rideau Hall, Friday February 18, 2011
Welcome to Rideau Hall.
Canada has a proud, rich and world-renowned military history. Our men and women in uniform have long been recognized for their bravery, their fortitude, their innovation, their dedication and their achievements.
Consider for a moment what Canadians did at a critical juncture of World War I. After months of desperate fighting in Flanders and Ypres in 1917, Sir Arthur Currie was ordered to assist in the seemingly impossible campaign to capture the Passchendaele Ridge. When learning of Currie’s orders, Lord Byng, who had witnessed the tremendous fighting ability of the Canadians at Vimy months before, boldly declared, “If anybody can do it, the Canadians can!”
Lord Byng’s declaration proved to be true. Currie’s Canadians could do it, and they did. Overcoming staggering casualties, relentless rain, waist-deep mud, heinous attacks of enemy gas, and the deafening sound of exploding shells that could be heard as far away as London, the Canadians secured Passchendaele Ridge.
And they did not stop there. Canadians continued to lead the charge for the remainder of the War. They answered the call to fight once again in World War II. They helped to protect the Western world against the spread of communism in Korea and beyond. They donned the blue beret to keep peace around the world. And even now, they continue to fight to secure a world tormented by terrorism.
Last November, I travelled to Afghanistan. I saw the tremendous contributions that our men and women have made to the lives and communities of the Afghan people. To borrow Lord Byng’s words, if anybody can do it in Afghanistan, the Canadians can. And have. And continue to do so.
I am deeply honoured to be commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces. Each and every one of our members deserves the pride, thanks and support of all Canadians. Each and every one continues to advance a profound legacy that began so many years ago. A legacy of hope and peace, freedom and prosperity, safety and stability, courage and strength.
That leads me to why we are here today. As you know, the Order of Military Merit was created in 1972 to recognize meritorious service and devotion to duty by members of the Canadian Forces.
The Order was not intended for everyone who serves. Indeed, it was intended to be bestowed upon only a select few. Upon only our very best. Upon only those who have served beyond the call of duty. Upon only men and women such as those before us today.
What is it that motivates someone to demonstrate such a standard of service? Such a profound sense of duty? Such a dynamic form of devotion to Canada, that we would have no choice but to recognize him or her with such an award?
I believe it is someone who not only accepts that service to country will demand sacrifice, but also embraces it.
Someone who stares hardship in the face, and comes out stronger.
Someone who inspires loyalty, fidelity and camaraderie in those who serve above, beside and below.
Someone who wholly devotes him or herself to every part of the job, enduring whatever obstacles might get in the way.
Someone who cares so deeply about others in countries far away that he or she is prepared to risk his or her very life to ensure that they can enjoy the same rights and freedoms that we in Canada so richly enjoy.
Someone who accepts an honour such as this with humility and grace, never believing for a moment that his or her job is done.
And someone who puts an extraordinarily deep love for country before all else, including his or her own health and welfare, and that of his or her family.
On that note, I would like to sincerely thank those family members with us for the many sacrifices you have made on behalf of your loved one’s career. And even more so, to thank you for the way you have stood alongside him or her to serve our country. In many ways, you are the unsung heroes behind their awards.
One of my primary goals as governor general is to inspire all Canadians to a higher level of public service. I am sincerely motivated by the words of Canada’s 19th governor general, the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier:
“Each of us, in his own way and place, however humble, must play his part towards the fulfillment of our national destiny … If Canada is to attain the greatness worthy of it, each one of us must say, ‘I ask only to serve.’”
On behalf of all Canadians, thank you for your service.
Thank you for the sacrifices you have made on our behalf.
Thank you for the example you have set for me, for your colleagues, for all Canadians, and for people in every country of the world.
Thank you for sustaining the great legacy that your brothers- and sisters-in-arms began so many years ago.
You truly remind us that “if anybody can do it, the Canadians can!”