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Gallery: Peacekeepers in Lebanon celebrate Estonian centennial

Estonian troops of the ESTPLA-24 platoon serving in a multinational Finnish-Irish battalion on the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission in Lebanon celebrated the Estonian centennial on UN base 6-50 on Saturday.

"By serving on the UNIFIL mission, you are doing your small part in helping to maintain peace on this complicated continent and thus increase the sense of security at home in Estonia," Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) Maj. Margus Mikk, commander of the Estonian contingent in Lebanon, said in his Independence Day speech according to an EDF press release.

"I highly value the contributions of everyone who has chosen to stand for Estonian freedom, whether in Estonia or here in this mission area," Mikk continued. "And this is in fact a huge contribution, because this is time that you are away from your loved ones and that you will never get back."

The day of Estonia's 100th birthday, sunny and nearly 20 degrees Celsius in Lebanon, began with a joint Skype video chat between President Kersti Kaljulaid, Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras and servicemen serving on foreign missions, followed by a festive formation.

At the formation, promoted Estonian servicemen were given their new insignia, and FINIRISHBATT commander Lt. Col. Neil Nolan, Finnish contingent commander Lt. Col. Ari Laaksonen and joint Estonian-Finnish A Company commander Maj. Jussi Asiakainen gave speeches.

The troops then watched the military parade that took place in Tallinn's Freedom Square that morning and ate a lunch whose menu included Estonian foods and drinks sent from the homeland for the occasion. The Estonian servicemen also received Independence Day greeting cards made for them by the children of Väike Päike Kindergarten in Tartu.

Approximately 40 members of the EDF, including the infantry battalion ESTPLA-24, are currently serving on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping mission in Southern Lebanon as part of the multinational Irish-Finnish battalion FINIRISHBATT.

Estonia has participated in the UNIFIL mission since May 2015.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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