Thank you, Gordon O’Connor, for your generous introduction – and for providing the kind of leadership that only a real military man can provide.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your warm, enthusiastic welcome.
It’s great to be here on Red Friday. After all, you created this weekly national celebration of our troops.
Give yourselves here at Petawawa a big, well-deserved round of applause.
You deserve the applause – and not just for inventing Red Friday.
But because of the incredible strength and support you have displayed over the last 12 months while hundreds of troops from CFB Petawawa have been deployed in Afghanistan.
I know it hasn’t been easy.
This community has had more losses to mourn than any other base in Canada.
But you have stood firm in support of our troops.
Because you’re so proud of them.
And so you should be.
Last month, nine soldiers from Petawawa were honoured for their work in Afghanistan.
Two were awarded the Star of Military Valour, five the Medal of Military Valour, and two more were Mentioned in Dispatches.
But, sadly, the attention has not been on them.
Unfortunately, these soldiers did not get the attention they deserved.
Because their stories were eclipsed by arguments in the House of Commons over media reports based on information from Taliban prisoners
I sincerely hope their stories get told when the Governor General formally awards their decorations.
But in the meantime, let’s give a well-deserved hand to those medal recipients who are here today.
Friends, there are too many unsung heroes in Afghanistan.
Not just Canadians, but all the NATO soldiers who are there, with the United Nations, helping the Afghan people reclaim and rebuild their war-ravaged country.
You know the story; the link between 9-11 and Afghanistan, the oppression Afghans endured under the Taliban, and the risk of terrorism coming here if we don’t confront it there.
You also know about the progress we made – progress that could not be possible unless our men and women in uniform put themselves on the line:
You also know that our work has not ended.
We can’t just put down our weapons and hope for peace.
We can’t set arbitrary deadlines and wish for the best.
And we can’t let anyone get away with tarnishing the reputation of the Canadian Forces as the most professional, disciplined and effective soldiers in the world.
And we won’t.
Because we know where we stand.
We know what we stand for.
And we know who we stand with.
The proud and courageous military men and women of the True North Strong and Free.
God bless the work they do.
God bless all of you, their families and friends.
And God bless Canada.