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Video of Lieutenant-Colonel Rhonda Lee Crew delivering a speech intended for 15- to 18-year-old teens

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Thank you for inviting me to join you this Veterans' Week. I'm proud to serve as a regular Forces Nursing Officer at Canadian Forces Support in Ottawa.

I'm usually busy at my desk working on strategic plans and supporting the future of the Canadian Armed Forces and its personnel.

But today, I have the special honour of speaking to you about the remarkable sacrifice that our veterans have made for Canada and for each of us.

They made the commitment to risk their lives so that we can live in a better world. Those of us who serve today are inspired by their example.

It's important that we remember and share our veterans' stories of courage and selflessness.

There's no better way to show our gratitude than to contribute to passing their legacy on.

Today, I'm going to talk about some of the people who contributed exceptional military service to Canada during three times.

That's because this year, we have three milestone anniversaries to commemorate.

The 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy; the 70th anniversary of the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the 5th anniversary of the end of Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Did you know that D-Day and the Battle of Normandy were two of the biggest events in the history of the Second World War?

Did you know that they dramatically shaped the world we live in now and that Canadians played a huge role? I want you to try to imagine being Arnott England.

Arnott was from Tabusintac, a small quiet town in New Brunswick. But 75 years ago, in the early morning hours of June 6th, at just 21 years of age, he was crossing the English Channel into France in a massive amphibious attack that is famously remembered as D-Day.

Can you imagine what it was like for Arnott, not knowing how or when the brutal Nazi occupation of Europe would end? And could he have known that the course of history was turning on that single day?

The Allies had spent years carefully planning the enormous surprise assault. They had invested so many ships and planes on D-Day that the Channel was full of vessels and the air above Arnott screamed with shells and warplanes.

A staggering 150 000 Allied troops were involved. 14 000 of them were Canadians like Arnott.

It was Arnott's first battle, but just like the other soldiers, he knew very well that this was a no-fail mission. Anything less than success would mean disaster for the Allies.

Even if they succeeded, the troops knew that many of them would not be coming home.

That's because the job of each of the Canadian, British and American contingents that day was to take back a sector of France's Normandy coastline from the Nazis.

And on the other side of the water was a wall of Nazis' defences: landmines, barbed wire, artillery, machine guns and thousands of enemy soldiers.

What Arnott and the other Canadians could not yet know was that they would achieve an outstanding victory that day.

359 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice that day. And for Arnott and the other troops who survived the beaches of D-Day, it was only the beginning.

The next step of the invasion was the grueling Allied push further inland to take back the region of Normandy from the Germans. Over 5000 Canadians were killed and 13 000 injured in the battle for Normandy.

But D-Day proved to be the beginning of the end for the Axis powers and the liberated countries of Northwestern Europe still celebrate the Canadians like Arnott who helped them reclaim their freedom.

By the time the Second World War ended, over 1 million Canadians out of a total population of only 11 million had served in the fight against tyranny.

45 000 individuals lost their lives. We must be grateful that so many Canadians helped bring peace.

I told you that Arnott England was only 21 years old when he contributed to the D-Day landing and the Battle of Normandy. But did you know that some of Arnott's brothers in arms were your age?

About 700 000 Canadians under the age of 21 served in the Second World War.

This is Private Gérard Doré from Val-Jalbert, Quebec, who was just 15 when he joined the regiment of Fusiliers Mont-Royal and just 16 when he fought and died in the Battle of Normandy.

Like other teens who joined the Armed Forces, he lied about his age and he said he was 19. Sometimes boys as young as 13 passed themselves off as old enough to join.

But back home in Canada, teenagers and children were encouraged to contribute to the war effort in other ways.

If you were asked to work long hard hours on a farm instead of going to school in the fall, would you do it?

Since many able-bodied men and women were overseas, there was no way to harvest crops without additional labour. Students like yourselves filled the gap to keep up the food supply for civilians and military alike.

Does it surprise you that the minimum age for getting a driver's licence was lowered to 14 so the kids could operate farm vehicles?

And in the fall, schools held off taking attendance and introducing new material until the harvest was done.

The contributions by young people were admired in Canadian society and made a real positive difference to the war effort.

After the Second World War, Canadian greatly reduced its military, but only a few short years later, Canadian began to recruit thousands of new soldiers, sailors and aviators to be sent to Europe and defend the cause of peace and freedom once again.

How many of you have heard of NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, was founded in 1949 70 years ago this year because the democratic countries of The North Atlantic region found themselves into militarized standoff with the Soviet Union and its Communist allies.

It was called the Cold War. It was complex, dangerous and involved the threat of nuclear weapons. So, the North American and European democracies banded together in a collective defence pact.

NATO countries agreed to protect our common values of democracy, individual liberty and rule of law and to maintain stability and peace in the North Atlantic region. We have been doing that important work ever since.

Canada has participated in every NATO operation because we understand that we are all safer when our allies and neighbours are secure.

The Cold War ended in 1991, but Canadian military personnel were called on to face new challenges to peace, freedom and democracy.

In the 1990s, ten of thousands of Canadians were sent through NATO to stabilize the former Yugoslavia after it collapsed into ethnic warfare.

And after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, NATO took a lead role in international efforts to fight terrorist threats.

70 years of Canadians have been standing shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies to make the world a better and safer place.

The current generation of Canadians doing their part includes Commodore Josée Kurtz from Joliette, Quebec. Just this summer, she became the first woman to command a Standing NATO fleet of warships.

We fully expect that your generation will also include leaders like Commodore Kurtz and that your generation will continue to help make NATO the most successful military and political alliance in history for another 70 years.

The third important anniversary we are commemorating this year stands from the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks. After those attacks, Canada joined in the mission to eliminate the terrorists' threat in Afghanistan and bring peace and stability to that country.

Captain Nichola Goddard was one of the 40 000 Canadians who served in that mission. It was the biggest deployment of Canadian troops since the Second World War ending just five years ago. Our troops fought to eliminate the terrorists' threat in Afghanistan and bring peace and stability to its citizens.

Can you imagine the courage that it takes to ride in the topmost position of this armoured vehicle and spot targets? That's exactly what a Forward Observation Officer does. It's one of the most dangerous jobs in the army. It was Captain Goddard's job in Afghanistan and she was devoted to it.

During an ambush on her convoy, Captain Goddard called for artillery support and in doing so, she put herself at great risk. Unfortunately, during that ambush, she was killed by enemy fire.

Again, in Afghanistan, our troops, like Captain Goddard, performed their duties with a level of bravery that has earned Canada appreciation among our allies and respect on the world stage.

In our Acts of Remembrance this year, many currently serving Canadian Armed Forces members like myself and many of the families and friends of our military personnel and veterans who served in Afghanistan will have that mission front of mind on Remembrance Day.

The Canadian Armed Forces lost 158 service personnel in the war in Afghanistan. We also lost 7 Canadian civilians and 40 American soldiers who were serving under Canadian command at the time of their death.

This year, as in past years, some of us military personnel will stand with ten of thousands of other Canadians at the National War Memorial in Ottawa to remember these and all of our veterans during the Annual Remembrance Day Ceremony.

For Veterans' Week, I will be talking to my Brownie and Guide units about veterans and we will write postcards to send along with Girl Guide cookies to deployed soldiers.

On Remembrance Day, I'll be watching the ceremonies with my husband, Sergeant Retired Duane Allan Bryson, we will be remembering all those who have served in Canada and abroad to ensure we here in Canada continue to have the free and amazing country we all enjoy.

Many other Canadians will participate in the Write to the Troops program to thank our veterans for their service in past or current operations abroad or for assistance during disasters at home like floods and wildfires.

Many Canadians will visit war monuments and museums across the country and across the globe to lay a wreath or have a personal moment of silence.

There are many ways to remember the sacrifices of our veterans and keep their legacy alive.

What really matters is that we do make the choice to remember and that we never forget.

Thank you for choosing to remember our veterans with me today.

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