Presentation of the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation to the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group
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Québec, Friday, February 4, 2011
Good afternoon and thank you for giving me such a warm welcome. I am honoured to be here among you, the men and women of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group. You do your duty, day after day, because you believe in the idea of service and you believe in Canada.
Your commitment to serve this country is reflected in the award you receive today. Other groups who have earned the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation have displayed the utmost bravery, ingenuity and resolve, representing Canada with distinction at home and abroad. The 3rd Battalion of the Van Doos—this battle group—is no different.
I recently had the sad duty of attending the repatriation ceremony of Corporal Steve Martin, also of the 3rd Battalion. In speaking with his family, friends and colleagues, and in offering my condolences and those of all Canadians, I discovered Corporal Martin’s commitment to the Canadian Forces, his love of the Van Doos, and your love of him.
The ceremony was very moving, bringing people together to honour the bravery of one man and a life ended too soon. It was a time to offer thoughts and prayers to the family, as well as to every member of the Canadian Forces stationed overseas for a safe return home.
It is so important for me to show my support to you, and to show how much you mean to this country. With this commendation, I hope that all Canadians can understand the importance of your service.
From July 2007 to February 2008, this battle group was posted to Afghanistan. During that period, you proved your courage and resolve in difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible, situations. You persevered in confrontations with the enemy. Because of your efforts, the Afghan people can continue to establish in their country the peace, prosperity, security and freedom that Canada cherishes.
Soldiers like you are making the difference.
I had the good fortune of visiting Afghanistan soon after my installation as governor general. I was struck by how much progress had been made.
While there, a senior US military officer, who was a liaison in Afghanistan with Canadian troops, made two observations which will stay with me. He said that from a military point of view, the Canadian men and women in uniform are second to none; they are superb soldiers.
The second thing he said is that he still can’t quite believe the capacity of Canadian soldiers to relate to civilians, international groups and the Afghan people in the rebuilding of civil society.. He marvelled at how well Canadians in uniform can relate to other people not in uniform. This was something he had never seen in a military theatre before. He believed this has something to do with the basic values of Canada and how well those serving reflect them.
Your time in Afghanistan confirms what I learned there: that Canadian soldiers have great abilities, not only to defend and fight when need be, but also to rebuild and relate as ambassadors of our country and its values.
Former chief of Defence staff General Rick Hillier once said that “When a soldier steps on foreign soil in a high-risk environment, every single Canadian should be walking with him or her.”
This is a message every solider should hear, and that every Canadian should know. When you are sent to Afghanistan, or to any area of the world, when you travel to defend, to fight and to aid, know that I walk with you in spirit and that Canadians across the country support you.
We hold immense respect for what you do. I look out into this crowd of men and women, people who have fought and sacrificed for us, and I am proud to be commander-in-chief. And I am proud to stand side by side with you and call myself a Canadian.
It is an honour and a privilege to present the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group.