Egils Levits
Valsts prezidents Egils Levits

Honourable Minister,  Chief of the Defence Staff, Chief of the National Guard,

Your excellence, President Vējonis,

Soldiers of the National Guard, ladies and gentlemen,

I

This August we celebrate the events which took place 30 years ago when we started our de facto path towards renewed independence and 30 years since international recognition of the Latvian government by other governments. National Guard,  a volunteer self-defence force  which contributes to safeguarding our state,  is also celebrating its 30th anniversary.

More than 10 thousand soldiers joined the National Guard in a matter of months following the adoption of the National Guard law on 23 August 1991. A year later, the force had grown to 17 thousand soldiers. National Guard had become the biggest force in the history of Latvia since restoration of its independence loyal to national government. We say big thank you to those who instantly joined the ranks of soldiers guarding the renewed state 30 years ago, everyone who was not afraid to demonstrate their patriotism, everyone who was ready to protect Latvianness and democracy, free and thriving Latvia.

II

Throughout the centuries, Latvians have stood up to protect our people, land and state time and time again – from ancient times to riflemen, War of Independence, defenders, legions and post-war partisans. Many of our best sons followed the call and fought, even when there was very little hope. They fought for Latvia. We will be forever grateful to them for what they did and keep them in our eternal memory. Our nation showed what courage, determination and patriotism really means also during 1991 Barricades. It was only natural that, driven by desire to protect the renewed independence, our fellow countrymen quickly established the National Guard on 23 August, just two days after we became free again. We took back the control of our land and quickly realised that we now have to take protect our state ourselves.

III

Today’s world is much less distorted by political illusions. We can safely rely on our friends, partners and allies. But our country is as strong and as resilient as our will to defend it through times of peace and times of conflict. National Guard has become an integral part and numerically the biggest component of the National Armed Forces. National Guard are internationally recognised and appreciated.

National Guard is a territorial force ready to face an aggressor in early stages of an invasion. It also provides crisis response support to society and other public services through peace-time operations, while also contributing its troops to international military missions. National Guard development has become one of the key National Armed Force priorities since 2008 Russian aggression in Georgia and 2014 invasion in Ukraine. National Guard are receiving modern weapons, equipment and vehicles. National Guard infrastructure will receive a major financial boost. Although the equipment and training that National Guard has today is way better than in 1991, patriotism of people who join and serve in the National Guard, their readiness to protect the national security of Latvia, is as strong as back in the 1991.

IV

Dear National Guard soldiers,

On behalf of Latvian State, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for volunteering your time and resources to the cause of the National Guard. Your families and close ones, who often have to put up with your absence, also deserve a special thank you. Those who directly and indirectly support the National Guard also deserve praise and I invite everyone to join the ranks of the National Guard or support the force in other ways.

V

Let me also thank the friends and allies of Latvia, and Canadian military whose representatives have joined us for today’s events, for all the different initiatives, which have strengthened the National Guard, and also for helping Latvia protect its territory. Together we secure Latvia’s eastern border because it is also the NATO and European Union border.  By protecting the border, we make sure our territory remains intact and our people are safe. We protect our national identity and values, culture-driven and experience-based beliefs in a similar fashion. That is what we will continue to do, as we believe that the power of mind, i.e., strong morals and straight mind, are as equally important as modern military equipment. 

VI

Fellow countrymen,

Thirty years is a period that lasts several generations. Men and women who became the backbone of the National Guard in early days were gradually replaced by younger soldiers. Public appreciation for the National Guard has evolved and many people identify with the soldiers and are ready to lend their hand.

VII

Today’s Latvia rests on people’s patriotism and love. National Guard is the source of national hope and symbol of our unity. Let us keep protecting, nurturing and treasuring our dear Latvia. Let us always find our way to bond under our beautiful flag.

God bless Latvia!

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