David Meadows April 27, 2006
On April 22, 2006 four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. Respects and heartfelt sadness go to the families of those heroes who stand alongside the U.S. in the Long War half a world away. While we focus on the war in Iraq, the fighting continues in Afghanistan where side-by-side the U.S. and one of its most loyal allies, Canada, engage the re-emergence of the Taliban.
Canada is like a close uncle who constantly argues, badgers, and complains about what you are doing, but when help is truly needed, you can't keep him away: he's right there alongside you. We have a unique relationship with Canada. We have different political positions on many issues, but our unique friendship has weathered world wars, global crises, and the ever-so-often neighborhood disagreement.
Canada has been with us since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism. In February 2006, without fanfare Canada, leading a multinational force combating growing Taliban insurgency, increased troop strength in Afghanistan to 2,300. With the American military stretched thin against rising instability in both Iraq and Afghanistan, an ally that increases its troop strength is inspiring and deserves our respect.
Katrina was another example of our close family-like relationship. Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. Two days later, the Vancouver Urban Search and Rescue Team rushed from British Columbia, Canada to Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana. In this Parish of 68,000 Americans, the first responders were Canadians. Overall, within the devastated Gulf Coast area, it appears Canada was the first responder outside of local efforts. They worked 18-hour days, going door-to-door alongside Louisiana State Troopers, rescuing 119-Americans.
While FEMA ramped up to surge into the catastrophe; while the administration and Louisiana fought for the politically correct way to respond; Canadian aid was already at work.
The Canadian Forces Joint Task Group 306 consisting of the warships HMCS Athabaskan, HMCS Toronto, NSMC Ville de Quebec, and CCGC William Alexander sailed to the Gulf Coast to deliver humanitarian supplies. They stayed, working alongside U.S. Navy and Mexican warships, to provide aid to Katrina victims.
Katrina was not an anomaly of our close relationship. When Hurricane Ivan devastated Pensacola, Florida in October 2004 Canadian humanitarian help was there also. Canadian power trucks roamed the streets and countryside helping restore electricity where Americans had a unique experience of running into workmen who only spoke French.
Canada took a lot of undeserved flak for failing to leap into Operation Iraqi Freedom when our administration sent us galloping across the desert. But Canada remains one of our staunchest allies in the war. When United States military forces were fighting up the highways in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Canada quietly increased troop numbers in Afghanistan and continued Naval operations with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.
I was at the Pentagon on 9/11, stationed on the Joint Staff. During the early hours after the attack, the United States closed its air space and ordered every aircraft within our borders to land immediately at the nearest airfield. Canada immediately stood up an Operations Support Post.
With civil aviation grounded, aircraft destined for the United States were forced elsewhere. Most landed in Canada. Re-routed travelers and flight crews were hosted at Canadian Forces facilities in Goose Bay, Gander, and Stephenville, Newfoundland; Halifax, Shearwater, and Aldershot, Novia Scotia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Canada rapidly mobilized its forces. Within hours, the Canadian Navy was on alert with ships preparing to cast off immediately for any U.S. port to help victims of the 9/11 attacks. Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team prepared to deploy from Trenton, Ontario. Canada dispersed CF-18 fighter aircraft to strategic locations throughout Canada. No politics. No negotiating. No questions. They were just there. Canada would have fought any adversary that approached the United States that day.
Canada has been such an integral partner with the United States in the Global War on Terrorism that on December 7, 2004 when President Bush awarded the Presidential Unit Citation to Commander Joint Force South for combat success in Afghanistan, he was also recognizing the secretive Canadian Joint Task Force 2 commando counter-terrorism unit.
The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded 30 Bronze Star medals for heroism in combat to Canadian Forces personnel. Some of those 30 died in action. Many of the others were wounded. These Canadians earned this American medal for heroism fighting alongside Americans. When we recall our own dead heroes, we must remember that these warriors gave their lives not only for Canada, but also for the United States.
Canada is more than a neighbor. It is a close family member with the gumption to disagree with its brother to the south but always there when disaster strikes and America needs help. For that, I salute you, Canada, and extend my respect for the sacrifices given by members of the Canadian Forces.
I thank you as well, Canada. I thank you for your past and future support in time of need, I thank you for being the place where so many of my friends are from, and I also thank you for being a good neighbor... let's just forget that Avro Arrow business, shall we?