Presentation of Military Valour Decorations and Meritorious Service Decorations
Rideau Hall, Thursday, January 26, 2012
It is an honour for me to welcome all of you to Rideau Hall for this presentation of Military Valour and Meritorious Service Decorations.
Each of you has shown great courage and determination in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. You have tackled challenges of global importance. You have contributed greatly to the safety of people at home and abroad. And you have played an essential role in shaping how the Canadian Forces are perceived.
It has been a privilege for me to see first-hand this past year how much our men and women in uniform are valued at home and around the world.
I recently travelled to Italy and Afghanistan to visit troops stationed overseas. It was my first opportunity to celebrate the holidays with members of the Canadian Forces.
On previous visits abroad, Afghanistan in particular, I marveled at what Canadians were accomplishing; not only were they bringing security and stability to various regions, but they were also helping to rebuild communities that had been ravaged by conflict.
While there, I visited the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences. I saw how Canadian Forces’ medical personnel were tending to the sick and injured, as well as mentoring their Afghan counterparts. This combination of duty, inspiration and education is an important part of what you do.
I also spoke with members directly, men and women who expressed their pride in serving their country, even though they were not home for the holidays. I know that being away from family and loved ones is incredibly difficult—and one of the biggest sacrifices that you make for your country—but I also know that your love of Canada and the knowledge that you are making a difference in the world are two of the greatest forces that drive you.
This is particularly true for each of you here today.
The program you hold in your hands is not simply a guide to today’s event; it is a collection of individual stories about singular events or duties performed beyond all expectations. Each person’s accomplishments within the Canadian Forces are laid bare in these pages, their skill and bravery plain to see.
In fact, this country’s history is full of amazing examples of the passion, courage and initiative that have earned members of the Canadian Forces respect the world over. From Canada’s involvement in peacekeeping operations around the world, to recent missions in Haiti, Libya and Afghanistan—Canada has a remarkable history of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
One such story is that of Lieutenant Stuart Kirkland, who, on Easter Monday, 1917, helped to take Vimy Ridge. Of the hours leading up to the battle, he wrote “I can never describe my feelings as I stood there waiting for the moment to come.” He later wrote that, “The very earth rocked, and the noise and thunder was awful and maddening.”
Yet, despite the horrors around him and having been himself injured in the attack, he managed to administer first aid to some of his comrades and to help win one of the most dramatic battles of the First World War, one of the greatest victories our Canadian Forces has ever known.
Like Lieutenant Kirkland, all of you are fighting for a world that has no more need of fighting, a world of peace and tolerance, a smarter, more caring world of which we can all be proud.
Until that world is a reality, we are thankful that we can rely on the dedication of the members of the Canadian Forces, men and women who embody this country’s ideals.
Congratulations to all the recipients. You continue to make us proud through your actions and service to Canada and the world.