National Day of Honour
Ottawa, Friday, May 9, 2014
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It has been said that war is as old as history, but so too is peace, and today we mark the end of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan.
We have gathered on Parliament Hill to take a moment in our busy lives to offer our profound respect and appreciation to those of you who served so capably and sacrificed so much.
For more than a dozen years, the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces served with honour and distinction in Afghanistan.
You were joined by Canadian diplomats, public servants, contractors and journalists. And you were supported by families and friends, who remind us that those who served in Afghanistan were fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
The mission was highly complex and difficult, and it cost a real human price—for Canada, for Afghanistan and for our allies.
When the conflict began, the world was shifting quickly and it was difficult to foresee the outcomes of events.
As governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada, I occupy a unique position within the Canadian Armed Forces. Supporting you and your families during the mission in Afghanistan has been integral to my mandate, as it was for my predecessors, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean.
We have had the privilege of meeting with many of you who served during this conflict, be it here in Canada, on board ship in Southeast Asia, at support bases abroad or on the ground in Afghanistan.
We have celebrated examples of your outstanding service and achievement, and we have solemnly recognized your duty, honour and sacrifice.
We have met with your families and loved ones, and we have stood beside the families of those who have fallen at repatriation ceremonies and shared their pain and grief.
Though pale in comparison with the challenges you have faced, these were some of the most difficult moments of my life. I know the same is true for my predecessors.
It is during moments like these that we truly understand the nature of sacrifice.
As soldiers, and as families and friends of soldiers, you have generously shared your stories with us. They are stories of proud service and achievement, of joyous reunion, but also of terrible loss, injury and struggle.
They are also stories of resilience, of bravery and of determination to make the world a better place. They are stories of hope, for both Canada and Afghanistan.
This ceremony marks the end of Canada’s military mission, but its legacy continues in our own lives and in the lives of the people of Afghanistan.
I am proud to be your commander-in-chief, and on behalf of all Canadians, I would like to offer you my deepest thanks for your service and your sacrifice.
Thank you for your contribution as soldiers, as ambassadors, as protectors and as contributors to civil society.
And thank you, families and loved ones, for being the backbone of this mission.
Together, you embody Canada’s commitment to the rights and freedoms we cherish as a democratic society, and to the values of duty, honour and service.