Return of Canadian Armed Forces Personnel from Afghanistan
Ottawa, Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Returning men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, as your Commander in Chief, I salute you.
And as your Governor General, I welcome you back to Canada with gratitude and in humility.
You have served with courage, sacrificed your lives, and endured the extremes both of climate and of separation from family and friends. Through it all, you have proved your diligence, your toughness and your compassion for the plight of others.
Your return marks the end of more than a dozen years of our Canadian mission in Afghanistan—a mission with a certain aim, yet in an operational theatre that threw everything it had at us.
Afghanistan has tested your head, your heart and your gut. As soldiers, you dug deep, putting all your training into practice, and learning new tactical skills on the move—skills that will form the training of the generation of soldiers who are readying themselves now to meet the high standards that you have set.
You have seen the su1ffering of a population under the tyranny of deliberate violence, enforced poverty, and perverse fanaticism. Many of you have witnessed the worst and the best of humanity, and while you may bring home images that will haunt you, you carry also the memories of encounters that will inspire you for the rest of your lives.
Through it all, you have put yourselves at ultimate risk, standing your ground in defence of your beliefs, getting the job done so that those you came to help got that help. Each of you knows or knows of a Canadian injured or lost in the line of duty, and yet you soldiered on. For that, all Canadians stand in deepest respect.
Over the course of this mission, you have undertaken many roles: as soldiers foremost, but also as ambassadors, peacekeepers, protectors and rebuilders of civil society, and as teachers to Afghan’s own security force. Many talents, many roles: that versatility is a Canadian legacy and, I believe, one of the greatest assets we had on the ground.
Your mission is now over. Your loved ones—who have faced their own hardships and made their own sacrifices—are waiting to see you with joy and relief.