Send-off for the Canadian Contingent Participating in the Nijmegen March
Ottawa, Ontario, Monday, July 7, 2014
I am delighted to join all of you here as you embark on your grueling, yet meaningful, journey.
I consider myself quite active, and may even have described myself as fit in my youth, but I doubt I could have done what you are setting out to do. A four-day, 160-kilometre trek, all while carrying a minimum weight of 10 kg—the mind boggles at your stamina!
The Nijmegen March, however, is about more than just bragging rights. It is about following in the footsteps of history. It is about paying your respects to your predecessors. It is about remembrance.
Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. Canada was instrumental in ending the occupation, with thousands of Canadians serving and fighting through enemy lines.
As many of you know, it was a fierce fight, with many killed and wounded. The battle-hardened members of the Cape Breton Highlanders, for example, said that this had been their toughest fight.
But in the end, Canada and its allies prevailed, and the Netherlands was freed. It is with this auspicious history in mind that you are participating in the March. And as you walk, I hope that you will take time to reflect on those Canadians who lost their lives there, and the lifelong friendships they cemented through their sacrifice.
You will traverse the same lands your predecessors did, walking the same paths, only in safety and peace this time, alongside others, both civilian and military, from around the world.
As you do so, I also hope that you will keep your own health and well-being in mind, as well as those of your fellow team members. This will not be an easy exercise, by any stretch of the imagination. It will be incredibly taxing, both physically and mentally, so you must watch out for each other and encourage one another.
This is something I’ve witnessed many times among members of the Canadian Armed Forces. You truly care for one another. The military family is close-knit for a reason: all of you work together toward a common goal, and you support each other through any mission you undertake. Never underestimate the power of all of you working together, as a unit. You know this, of course, but it always bears repeating.
The Netherlands is a beautiful country and I am sure that you will receive a very warm reception there. I have no doubt that you will represent Canada with honour and distinction.
I urge all of the participants to stay healthy and stay safe. And remember to take the time to enjoy this unique experience of endurance and remembrance.