Announcement of Walking With the Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge
Ottawa, Ontario, Friday, April 19, 2013
Thank you for your warm welcome.
As commander-in-chief, I have the great privilege of meeting with members of the Canadian Forces and honouring their service to our country.
When doing so, I sometimes quote my predecessor General Georges Vanier, who was a founding member of the Royal 22e Régiment—the famous Van Doos—and a highly decorated soldier in his own right.
He once said:
“If Canada is to attain the greatness worthy of it, each of us must say, ‘I ask only to serve.’”
What I don’t often mention about General Vanier is that he was seriously wounded on the field of battle. He lost his right leg during the First World War while leading an attack in northern France.
The year was 1918. He was 30 years old.
There are many reasons to admire General Vanier’s life and career, but the fact that he continued to serve Canada after his injury—first as an aide-de-camp to Lord Byng, later as ambassador to France, and, eventually, as governor general and commander-in-chief—surely ranks among the most inspiring.
He is an example to all who must “soldier on” after an injury.
All of which brings me to today’s gathering, and to MCpl Chris Downey’s and Cpl Alexandre Beaudin-D’Anjou’s participation in the South Pole Allied Challenge.
This expedition, which will shortly be formally announced in London by its patron, His Royal Highness Prince Harry, will see wounded soldiers from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia take part in a trek to the South Pole.
Together, Chris and Alexandre will both represent and inspire your wounded comrades and indeed all members of the Canadian Forces. We are very proud of these remarkable young men.
It is difficult to imagine a greater physical and mental challenge than an expedition to the South Pole—one of the most inhospitable landscapes on Earth.
In fact, Antarctica is often compared to another planet in its remoteness and severity! Just getting there can be an ordeal.
I understand that MCpl Downey and Cpl Beaudin-D’Anjou were selected for this challenge after participating in a cold weather training camp in Iceland.
And I’m sure that neither of you is taking up this challenge in spite of the difficulty it presents.
Rather, you are going to the South Pole because of the difficulty.
That is what makes your participation in this event such a powerful symbol of resolve in the face of adversity.
I can only imagine how hard it must be to recover from an injury, whether that injury is visible or not.
I can only imagine the challenges that are daily faced by our wounded soldiers, and by their families and loved ones.
And I can only imagine that, compared to such adversity, an expedition to the South Pole might not seem so difficult after all, despite the extreme conditions.
As commander-in-chief, I am inspired by the courage and determination of men and women who are striving to recover, to rehabilitate, and to reintegrate after being injured.
This expedition reminds us of that determination. I wish the very best to both of our participants, and to each of you who is bravely soldiering on.