Order of Military Merit Investiture Ceremony
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Rideau Hall, Friday, March 11, 2011
It is an honour to welcome you to Rideau Hall today as we recognize exceptional military service to Canada and the world.
I would like to take a moment to reflect on the words of Arthur Meighen, who was the first Canadian prime minister to visit Vimy Ridge after the Great War. Speaking of the threat posed by war to “the treasury of common things,” Meighen observed that “common things are, when challenged, most sacred of all.”
Those who have donned the uniform and answered the call to service know the value of common things. You grasp the importance of the basic rights and freedoms we enjoy in Canada, and you are dedicated to maintaining peace, security and the rule of law.
Canadians understand these things are not to be taken for granted, and members of the Canadian Forces know it better than most.
What does service mean for you?
As we know from the sacrifices of the fallen, it means being prepared to risk your life in the face of danger. We understand this only too well, as every solemn repatriation ceremony reminds us.
Your sense of duty also means that you—and, by extension, your families and loved ones— must accept the everyday demands of service: the long hours of work, the tough and relentless training regimen, and the constant need for flexibility and self-discipline.
And finally, each of you has embraced your responsibility as a role model, both here in Canada and abroad. Never underestimate the power of your example. Your standards of conduct, ethics and morals must be beyond reproach, because you embody the depth of our commitment to the common good.
My predecessor, General Georges P. Vanier, once said: “The overpowering strength of a free people is the readiness voluntarily to defend not merely themselves, not only their allies, but the very democratic principles they cherish.”
When you enlisted, you were no doubt driven by your ideals and the desire to serve these principles. This desire has sustained you throughout your service, and you have emerged today as respected individuals within the Canadian Forces.
Last November, I travelled to Afghanistan, where I met with Canadian Forces members who are supporting the rule of law, education projects, and civil and agricultural engineering work. As the transition is made to a new training mission in Afghanistan this year, your talent, energy and support will be instrumental.
The same applies for each new and ongoing Canadian Forces operation. The recent deployment to Libya is just the latest example of your overseas service; within the past year, Canadian Forces members have also conducted disaster relief efforts in Haiti and counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa.
You also offer the very best of yourselves here at home, supporting Canadians through search and rescue missions, security operations and Arctic patrols. We are truly fortunate to be able to count on women and men of your calibre.
Since my installation as governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada, I have spoken of my desire to see a smarter, more caring nation. And recently, I returned from a visit to the Middle East, where I spoke about this concept on the international stage.
I know that you also seek a smarter, more caring world, where justice and equality prevail. As the human face of Canada in so many troubled regions, members of the Canadian Forces have an absolutely critical role to play in advancing this vision.
Each of you gathered here today has served in so many ways, often without recognition. That is why it is such a pleasure to invest you into the Order of Military Merit, as Commanders, Officers and Members. This honour is a testament to the pride that your peers, your commanding officers and your country have in you.
On behalf of all Canadians, it is an honour to acknowledge your example of service and devotion.