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Ottawa, Wednesday, September 27, 2017
What an enormous privilege it has been to serve as commander-in-chief of Canada over the last seven years.
And what a proud, solemn honour it is to wear this uniform among you, and to praise the service and dedication of the Canadian Armed Forces one last time.
When I became governor general, one of the first questions I was asked was: will you wear a Canadian Armed Forces uniform on Remembrance Day?
The very fact I was asked this question so early on speaks to the special significance of the uniform, and to the importance of the military in the life of our country, past and present.
Canadians greatly value our armed forces and the sacrifices you and your loved ones make for us, here at home and around the world.
I have always had such profound respect for what each of you does for Canada—and for what veterans have done throughout our history—that I felt I should not wear the uniform on that first Remembrance Day of my mandate.
I felt it was an honour that must be earned, just as all of you have earned it.
Several months later, I was in Afghanistan with my great friend Walt Natynczyk, then chief of the Defence Staff. We were in combat uniform, and he said to me: “The men and women of the armed forces would be proud if you would wear the uniform any time you are with us officially.”
And so I do with enormous respect. So does Sharon who, as an honorary naval captain with a particular interest in mental health, is attached to the all-embracing unit responsible for military personnel.
It has been a wonderful journey for us both. We are grateful for having been welcomed into the Canadian Armed Forces family.
It’s a remarkable family consisting of remarkable people. Together, you serve Canada with a profound sense of duty and honour.
The role you play is complex, challenging and always changing.
You are warriors, of course, but you are also ambassadors for our country.
You are peacekeepers, protectors and rebuilders of civil society. You are teachers and advisors.
You are rescuers, medics, technicians, engineers and leaders.
The job you do for Canada is so varied and illustrious, it’s impossible to do it justice in a speech. During the past seven years, we have tried to pay tribute to your dedication to duty, honour and service.
In special ceremonies at Rideau Hall, the Citadelle of Québec and elsewhere, we have invested hundreds of deserving women and men into the Order of Military Merit, and presented decorations and medals to many more.
At military activities and exercises taking place from Alert to the Pacific coast to the Maritimes, we have developed an appreciation for what you do and how you do it.
We have remembered the bravery and dedication of veterans at solemn ceremonies in Canada and abroad.
The rededication of the National War Memorial, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the 70th anniversary of D-Day—we have marked these and other moments together.
Let me end on a personal note.
I have had the privilege of serving with three chiefs of the Defence Staff during my mandate: Walt Natynczyk, Tom Lawson and Jon Vance. I thank them all warmly for their unwavering support and inspiring leadership. We have also formed close friendships which I cherish.
I have also worked with outstanding women and men who have accompanied me as aides-de-camp, photographers and military advisors throughout my mandate. I thank each of them for their superb professionalism and their tireless support as close members of our family, which includes our 14 grandchildren and our splendid tracking dog, Rosie.
Finally, I offer my sincere thanks and profound admiration to every one of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces for your sense of duty and honour, and for all that you do for Canada.
You have made Sharon and me very proud to wear this uniform. We will always be grateful.