Canada's topsoldier paid tribute toa U.S. military hospital in Germany on Wednesday, saying it gave excellent medical care to more than 100 Canadian troops wounded in Afghanistan.
'We saw men and women, doctors and nurses and specialists at the hospital, who looked after our soldiers on the worst days of their lives. They looked after them as if they were their own.' —Gen. Rick Hillier
Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff,presented thestaffof the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl with a special Canadian Forces Unit Commendation.
"They went above and beyond the call of duty," Hillier told CBC News on Wednesday after the ceremony.
"What we saw here in Landstuhl from which our soldiers benefited was the best characteristics of humankind. We saw men and women, doctors and nurses and specialists at the hospital, who looked after our soldiers on the worst days of their lives. They looked after them as if they were their own."
At least 110 injured Canadian soldiers have been flown to the centre for treatment since Canada began its mission in Afghanistan in early 2002. Of those, about 100 have gone to the hospital in the past year.
Three Canadians soldiers who were treated at Landstuhl —Master Cpl. Paul Franklin, Cpl. Jeffrey Bailey and Pte. William Salikin — attended the ceremony where Hillier presented the award. All three soldiers, who have recovered from their injuries, were wounded in a January suicide bomb attack that killed Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry.
Hillier said the hospital deserved the recognition.
"They treated them well. They gave them world-class medical care, but most importantly, as our soldiers have told me, they gave that treatment with compassion. They are remembered by our soldiers with great affection."
Hillier said the three soldierswho attended the ceremony are living proof of the care provided at the hospital.
"As the staff here told me, they often don't get to see the effect of their work in the longer term. To have those three soldiers return and to be getting on with their lives and to be so energetic and irrepressible, was inspirational to the staff here at the hospital and it was a great chance for those three men and their families to thank the staff for their work they had done on their behalf."
Maj. Nick Withers, a Canadian Forces medical officer, told CBC News from Landstuhl on Wednesday that the hospital provides top-notch trauma treatment for soldiers wounded in action.
'They have an amazing capacity in that they can handle multiple significant mass casualty events from various theatres of war.' —Maj. Nick Withers
"Here they are in Europe and they basically provide a top trauma centre that we would expect to see in downtown Toronto or New York. They have an amazing capacity in that they can handle multiple significant mass casualty events from various theatres of war," he said.
"Their incredible capacity and ability has been most impressive to me."
Withers said that if two Canadian soldiers are being treated at the hospital at the same time, the staff tries to group them together to make them feel more at home.
The hospital says on its website that it serves as the primary medical treatment centre for casualties of U.S. operations within Europe, southwest Asia and the Middle East.
Currently,these include treatment to soldiers injured in the U.S. military operations known as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
The Canadian Forces Unit Commendation is an award designed tohonour distinguished service by a military unit.