Earlier this week, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) bestowed mission medals in recognition of service to 68 Estonian troops who have served on international operations.
In a ceremony held Wednesday, the defense minister awarded medals to Estonian troops or their service in operations and missions in Mali (Barkhane, UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA and EU military training mission EUTM), Iraq (NATO training mission NMI, U.S.-led international military operation Inherent Resolve), Lebanon (UN peacekeeping mission UNTSO), Israel (UN peacekeeping mission UNTSO), Italy (EU military mission EUNAVFOR MED) and Mozambique (EU military training mission EUTM), according to a ministry press release.
"Estonia has been participating in the foreign missions and operations of NATO, the EU, the UN as well as those of our allies and their coalitions for 27 years," Pevkur said. "Thousands of servicemembers and members of the Estonian Defense League (KL) have gained and brought home invaluable experiences. And, most importantly, the professionalism and dedication of Estonian fighters has always earned praise."
According to Pevkur, the security situation took a serious turn for the worse on February 24 — when Russia launched its ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine — which is why it is critically important, alongside Estonia's allies, to focus on NATO's collective defense.
"Estonia has never been as well protected as it is now, but at the same time, the threat coming from the East has never been so acute," he said. "We must work hard, take into consideration the lessons learned in Ukraine and apply those experiences to our situation in order to strengthen Estonia's defensive capability. We here know that 'every quill counts,' and your return adds quite a lot of quills to defend Estonia. Continue your service at home in the same way — with professionalism and dedication."
The defense minister also thanked the returning servicemembers' families and loved ones, whose support is likewise invaluable.
"While I believe you are also very happy to be back home, it is your loved ones that are happiest about your return — who have missed and waited for you for a long time," Pevkur acknowledged. "Enjoy the rest of the summer in Estonia, and always remember with pride that, far from home, you have stood for the freedom of the Estonian people and state."
Editor: Aili Vahtla