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Ottawa, Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Thank you very much for the kind words and solidarity you have shown me. I will always be grateful to you.
As I recently said, you are not born the commander-in-chief; I have determinedly become it because of you.
To the point that, throughout my mandate, I never once hesitated to don the military uniforms of the three branches of the Canadian armed forces to honour the women and men who wear them so proudly.
And, as I previously explained, this gesture was hardly insignificant for me, having grown up under the yoke of a merciless dictatorship, where military uniforms were associated with the brutal repression of the population.
Working beside you over the past five years has given me a true measure of the integrity, courage and generosity of the members of Canada’s military.
Everywhere I have been, I have witnessed your remarkable work and the inconceivable risks you take on a daily basis to build peace, provide emergency assistance and take part in reconstruction efforts around the world.
From my very first visit abroad as Governor General of Canada to support Aboriginal veterans at a remembrance ceremony at the Canadian war cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer, in France, all the way to Kandahar, Afghanistan, which I visited on two separate occasions; in Haiti, the country of my birth—so cruelly afflicted with flooding and then an earthquake—at the moving ceremony in Ouistreham to mark the Nazi capitulation, alongside the President of the French Republic on that solemn day, May 8, 2008, and on countless past occasions and moments spent with members of the Canadian Forces, every woman and man I have met has been exceptional.
Women and men who face every danger and are prepared to make every effort and countless sacrifices so that the ideal of freedom and justice that Canadians from all walks of life hold so dear can prevail all around the world.
Women and men with whom I have cried on the tarmac in Trenton during repatriation ceremonies, and those who returned wounded, those I visited in hospitals.
Women and men who must leave their loved ones—the people who support them unequivocally—to help people around the world who have been affected by disasters, those who are in danger, those who are unlucky.
Women and men who have accompanied me everywhere throughout my mandate and have taken care of me in their role as aides-de-camp. Please allow me this opportunity to publicly thank them for this.
I have worked with two Chiefs of the Defence Staff during my mandate, General Hillier and General Natynczyk, two remarkable men with whom I maintained a flawless confidential relationship and discussions that were held in a constructive spirit, a continuous dialogue on the challenges, issues and realities facing soldiers and their families. I would like to salute their openness.
In short, the women and men standing before me, those who will forever be dear to my heart, women and men of every rank, and from every regiment, service and department within the Canadian Forces; I want to say thank you on behalf of all Canadians and people around the world whom you provide support. When I was in Haiti, I cannot tell you how many Haitians told me that Canadian soldiers work with heart, a word that certainly translates your humanity.
My predecessor, General Georges Vanier, said that, “[m]ilitary life, forged as it is from discipline and comradeship, provides training in citizenship and encourages a sense of civic responsibility, and this sense of responsibility forms the backbone of our society.”
He added that, “[w]e should never underestimate the contribution a soldier makes as a citizen.”
I wholeheartedly agree, and I believe General Vanier would be very proud of the women and men who serve in today’s Canadian Forces.
I want you to know—and I am touched to tell you today—that you have been a constant source of inspiration and pride to the woman who stands before you and salutes you for the last time as commander-in-chief of Canada.
I cannot begin to tell you how much your dedication and friendship have touched me.
I am forever grateful to you and wish you all the greatest success and happiness.