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Terras: Independence and freedom never to be taken for granted

The commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Gen. Riho Terras, held the traditional speech at the military parade on Tallinn's Freedom Square. This is Terras' last Independence Day, as he will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Martin Herem by the end of the year.

Honourable President of the Republic! Honourable President of the Riigikogu! Mister Prime Minister! Your Excellencies! Members of the Defence Forces and the Defence League! Dear compatriots!

It is a great honour and joy to congratulate you on the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.

Defending the Republic of Estonia is the most important task for the members of the Estonian Defence Forces and of the Estonian Defence League. We fulfil this task unconditionally and with great dedication.

It's been a hundred years since the days when our forefathers swore to protect our young country. They did this in the War of Independence, along with the entire Estonian nation.

The victory in the Estonian War of Independence was needed in order to fulfil the dream of having our own country. This, in turn, was needed in order to secure this small nation’s belief in itself. The War of Independence provided a very clear message – everything is possible if a nation strives for it with all its might.

That message could not be overpowered by foreign powers or mass deportations. The message was carried worth and it helped our people survive.

One of the best examples of determination and faith in Estonia was set by Corporal Eduard Kuuskor.

He is fifty-three days older than the Republic of Estonia. His life story can be seen as the history of the Estonian state in one person.

Corporal Kuuskor was one of the brave combat signallers who initiated armed resistance against the Red Army invaders in the battle of the Raua Street on 21 June 1940.

During the Second World War, he was the signaller of the Haukka group. After which he spent more than twenty years in Soviet prison camps and places of deportation.

Today, this mighty gentleman lives in Keila. We wish him all the best for Estonia’s birthday.

Dear compatriots!

The skills and knowledge of Corporal Kuuskor enabled him to aid the resistance movement.

We need to ensure that the skills and knowledge of our people would be applied to defending Estonia in the most efficient way, even today.

The Estonian Defence Forces need to be oriented to the future and make good use of the strong suits of our people and country. Our innovation is led by the entire society of Estonia.

We already have cyber conscripts who, due to their preparation and quick wits, are able to protect Estonia in cyberspace.

The defence industry in Estonia is becoming stronger and more visible. It has found recognition and cooperation opportunities all over the world. We also need to apply more of our own defence industry technologies and solutions in the Estonian Defence Forces.

The Estonian Defence Forces can be future-oriented only if we know our strengths and learn from experience.

In recent years, training exercises have become a natural part of the life of a reservist. These training events are often announced unexpectedly and without prior notice. This is a very necessary practice, as it is the only way in which we can get a clear picture of our mobilisation capacity.

SIL 2018, the largest training exercise of the Estonian Defence League, will start in May of this year and its participants will include members of the Estonian Defence League and of the Naiskodukaitse (Women`s Voluntary Defence Organization), reservists, conscripts, servicemen in active service and allied units.

It is important to keep in mind that training exercises are a normal part of the national defence system.

We have gained understanding and support from the families, communities and employers of the defenders of our country. This support is highly appreciated by the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League.

Our independent defence capacity and the collective defence based on NATO are equally important for the defence of Estonia.

The strength of our alliances lies in unity. Unity is an armature, around which the most powerful alliance can be cast.

For Estonia, this refers to the presence of allies. This presence is the basis of military deterrence.

The NATO battle group stationed at Tapa and the Baltic Air Policing mission at Ämari, as well as allied units, which take part in the training exercises, have become integral parts of the activities of the Estonian Defence Forces. This is an everyday occurrence for close allies.

In addition to the British, the UK-led battle group currently also includes units from Denmark and Iceland.

The Danish company that currently serves at Tapa is exactly the same in size as the Danish volunteer unit, which on 4 April 1919, came to the aid of Estonians in the War of Independence, with 189 fighters.

We thank our allies who have sent their men and women to Estonia. This is the most effective way to defend NATO.

We are also well-informed and ready to respond where our help is needed.
Our troops serve alongside the French and British, Americans and Finns, as well as soldiers from many other countries.

Situations that require military intervention surround Europe in several directions. We need to stay vigilant and ready for complicated missions far away from home.

Dear people of Estonia!

The defenders of the Republic of Estonia find the public’s support very important. This is evident right now, at the Freedom Square, as well, as the sincere interest in national defence and our homeland is reflected in everyone’s eyes.

We feel it every spring when the symbol of the veterans, the blue bloom of Hepatica is visible all over Estonia.

Our connection with the nation remains strong thanks to the fact that everyone has the chance to contribute to national defence.

Let's try to give young people more opportunities to participate in the matters of their country, as they and their descendants will be the ones to witness the next century in Estonia.

Understanding and respect for your country starts from home, is cultivated in school and lasts a lifetime.

“May it last for ever,” is Corporal Eduard Kuuskor’s birthday wish to the 100-year-old Republic of Estonia, “without any external forces, with our own people and our own nation.” Let’s honour this wish.

We need to remember that the independence and freedom of our people has never been self-evident and should never be taken for granted. The Estonian state was established to protect our people and our freedom.

Long live the Republic of Estonia!

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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