CITY OF QUÉBEC, Quebec — In a rare ceremony held at the Québec City Convention Centre on April 15, nearly 1200 soldiers from Quebec were decorated for their contribution to the mission in Afghanistan in 2004.
Among the many dignitaries on hand to award the General Campaign Star and the General Service Medal was General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff.
At one point in the ceremony, when the soldiers came to attention, it produced a single resounding sound, like a fist pounding with all its might as if to mark the official end of ROTO 1 of Op ATHENA. Eight months after the return of troops from Kabul in Afghanistan, the medals arrived, ready to be pinned to soldiers' chests bursting with pride.
The feeling of pride and personal accomplishment was evident on every face, including that of Corporal Patrick Boulanger, 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (R22eR), who served as a rifleman in an infantry section in Kabul. "I am proud to be wearing this medal. Afghanistan is a more dangerous place and the risk there was higher even though nothing happened."
For Master Corporal Guy Cloutier of 58 Air Defence Battery, this decoration represented his pride in having finally had the chance to practise his trade in a theatre of operation.
"In light of their long history of conflict with the Russians, I am proud to have contributed to the rebuilding of a country," said Cpl Dominic Robillard, 3 R22eR.
In the months following the return from Afghanistan, many members were posted off base or assigned to various courses. Sergeant Daniel Gosselin, was posted to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu upon his return after serving in a forward observation artillery team. He was among the many unable to attend. "I would have liked to receive my medal with the regiment," he said.
For others, such as Captain Léo-Cédric Aspirault of the Armoured School, who has since been posted to Gagetown, things were different. "I'm pretty lucky, and my organization let me go receive it with my regiment ...I'm very grateful for that."
This medals ceremony is the culmination of a mission and shows that Valcartier troops are now ready to continue moving ahead.
Article by Lieutenant Marie-Noëlle Blanchet
Photos by Corporal François Charest and courtesy of the Department of National Defence