Presentation of Military Valour Decorations and Meritorious Service Decorations
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Rideau Hall, Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Good morning everyone. I am pleased to have this opportunity to express my gratitude and admiration—and the gratitude and admiration of all Canadians—to you, and to all members of the Canadian Forces.
And I am delighted to be presenting these honours to you, the bravest of the brave. You are an exceptional group and I am proud to be with you today.
131 years ago, Sir John A. Macdonald wrote to Lord Lorne, then Canada’s Governor General, “I hope the practice of conferring honours will not degenerate into a matter of course.”
“Matter of course” implies something ordinary. But there is nothing ordinary about these honours, just as there was nothing ordinary about the acts by which they were earned.
Each of you is here because you, in a variety of extraordinary ways, went beyond what your fellow Canadians could reasonably have asked of you.
We are recognizing your acts of courage and selflessness in the face of enemy fire and natural disasters.
And we are recognizing equally vital contributions that may have been made under less dramatic circumstances.
Whether in Africa, Haiti, the Middle East, Kosovo, Cyprus, Afghanistan or Newfoundland and Labrador, whether searching for lost Canadians or helping victims of natural disasters or monitoring cease-fires or fighting to restore peace, the Canadian Forces play a unique and vital role.
Our people are known for their skills as community builders and peacekeepers.
And it amazes me that you can move so easily and effectively between these roles. From blue-helmeted peacekeepers in Kosovo and Cyprus, to community builders in Afghanistan, where intercommunity conflicts are raging.
Many of you distinguished yourselves in Afghanistan. And the focus of much of the news that Canadians hear about Afghanistan is on the cost of the mission, measured in Canadian lives lost.
But those of you who were there understand the other side of the equation. You know what you have accomplished. You know about the lives you saved, the communities you helped to stabilize, the schools you helped reopen.
You have accomplished great things for the people of Afghanistan.
You have begun the process of helping Afghans take back their country.
This task is far from complete, but those of you who have served and who continue to serve there, alongside other members of the Canadian Forces and members of the Allied Forces—two of whom are being recognized today—have made a great and positive contribution.
That is not to say that we do not join parents and children and brothers and sisters as we mourn every Canadian and every Afghan death.
But those lives were not lost in vain as long as we continue the struggle forward.
And many of you are being honoured today because you acted to protect Canadians or Afghans, often at enormous personal risk.
So let us count not only lives lost, but also lives saved.
As your commander-in-chief, I am immensely grateful to you all.
Canadians are also grateful to your families for sharing you with the Canadian Forces for this important work.
I want to close by saying once more two words that I know you do not hear often enough: thank you.
Each of you, whether you served near home or in a war zone thousands of kilometres from your families, is a hero and I thank you on behalf of all Canadians for the exceptional contributions and acts of bravery that brought you here today.
And I thank all members of the Canadian Forces for the courage they demonstrate every time they step into harm’s way to protect civilians—building and rebuilding communities—here in Canada or on the other side of the world.
You make us very proud.