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Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Speech on the Occasion of the Presentation of the General Campaign Star and General Service Medal

Rideau Hall, Monday, November 29, 2004

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This morning, I am proud to make this inaugural presentation of the General Campaign Star and the General Service Medal to 45 stalwart members and supporters of our Canadian Forces. As Commander-in-Chief, I am pleased that our national system of honours has developed this timely way to recognize those who have served with distinction during operations against an armed foe.

I know that recipients will wear it with pride. For the rest of you that are here to celebrate with them, I urge you to take a good look at these decorations. Each of them contains a wreath of maple leaves, representing the honour and remembrance of their country. Crossed swords, an anchor and an eagle share the centre, symbolizing the unity and the diversity of our three branches of military service. And, of course, all is surmounted by the Crown, the source and centre of Canada's recognition of the excellence of its citizens. The Campaign Star and the Service Medal hang from a ribbon that contains the red and white of Canada, accompanied by the rich green that stands for service—the hallmark of true citizenship.

The Star and the Medal will always be accompanied by bars that indicate the particular operations in which service has been rendered. Recipients today have contributed to Operation ALLIED FORCE in the region of the former Yugoslavia, or to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operating in Afghanistan. 

The timing of this ceremony is propitious. In the same year that these two awards have been instituted, our country has had the opportunity to reflect, with renewed energy and commitment, upon Canada's military history. The 60th anniversary commemorations of the Normandy invasion, and of the 20 months of the Italian campaign, were powerful reminders of the Canadian tradition of dedication, skill and sacrifice, both in times of war and in pursuit of peace.

At Juno Beach or in Caën, climbing the Monte Cassino or walking the restored streets of Ortona, we came a little closer to being able to understand what our Canadian service people endured. The overwhelming affection that was showered upon our veterans in these places testified to the lasting gratitude of European citizens towards them and towards Canada itself. These aging warriors walked slowly along cemetery paths, looking for their fallen brethren. To watch them—and to join with them in their wondering sorrow—was to know more clearly the nature of duty, the reality of sacrifice.

These things are also clear to us in this observance today. A little more than two years ago, it was our privilege to host the inaugural presentation of the South-West Asia Service Medal. We honoured those who countered terrorism in the region, including the four men lost to friendly fire in those early days of the campaign. Among those who will come forward today, too, are three brave women who will accept the General Campaign Star for a loved one who fell in service to the cause of international order and solidarity.

Tina Beerenfenger, Candace McCauley, Susan Short—I am so glad that you are here with us. All of us know that military service calls for regular sacrifices, large and small, not just by those serving directly but also for their spouses, family and friends. We are painfully aware today, much more than we would like to be, that this profession carries with it not only family dislocation and hardship, but also danger and the ever-present possibility of loss.  

For the world continues to suffer from regional hatreds, inequities, and strife, and Canada remains committed to international action that can begin to provide the peace that we treasure here at home. In case we become complacent, should we think that such a blessed condition merely happens, we have only to ask in Ortona, Caën, and Apeldoorn, or in Sarajevo or in Kabul—they will tell us. In these places and many others around the world, Canada is known and honoured as a steadfast and skilful advocate for international collaboration, reconciliation, and the promotion of peace.

Today's recipients are practitioners of these ideals. You and your colleagues carry out, on behalf of all of us, this extraordinarily difficult and absolutely necessary work. Individuals, communities and nations around the world are grateful for the service that our Canadian Forces have done and will continue to do. So, too, we here at home are mindful, thankful and proud of you and of those who share your commitment.

On behalf of all Canadians, I congratulate and salute you.

Thank you.

Updated: 2004-11-29
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