Address by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at Christmas celebration in Kauniala Hospital for disabled war veterans, 13th December 2013

The motto for National Veterans’ Day celebrated in April this year was “No brother left behind, no young people forgotten”. This is an important message for our time. The principle was extremely important for a small nation struggling for its independence during the war. Fallen or wounded soldiers were not left behind on the battlefield. Everyone was cared for as far as humanly possible. Our war veterans transferred this principle also into our peacetime society. Brotherhood born at the front has lasted throughout life.

Establishing and starting up the Kauniala Hospital for disabled war veterans immediately after the war is an example of the strength of wartime values. The key values of Finnish society during the war have been found to be duty, patriotism, justice and community. It was generally perceived that the situation of those who were wounded in the war, and the founding of a hospital, were matters shared by the whole community. Kauniala has been a fine example of caring, good treatment and renewal capacity. The “spirit of Kauniala” is celebrated for good reason. One can easily sense it when visiting.

The other theme adopted for this year’s National Veterans’ Day focused on young people. It is important to look after young people too, especially those threatened by exclusion from the mainstream of society. The balance and wellbeing of a nation are sustainable when each and every member of society feels part of the homeland.

For you, our honoured disabled war veterans, war did not end when the fighting stopped. You have borne your wounds throughout your lives. We who live in today’s society easily forget just how far the impact of war can reach. We take this opportunity to pay our deepest respects to your sacrifices and your work on behalf of Finland.

It is indicative of just how dramatic the past wars have been in Finland’s history that even this autumn – seven decades after the end of the wars – several books have been published discussing various aspects of the conflicts, such as the mental impacts on those involved. It took a long time before this angle of the war was ready to be reviewed.

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The Disabled War Veterans Association is to be commended for its efforts over the seven decades of its existence. Building a network of nursing homes and rest homes for veterans is an enormous achievement.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals and bodies who have contributed to the operations of Kauniala, particularly the expert personnel of the hospital. You have created a framework for good care for our disabled war veterans and for veterans. Let this be the foundation for Kauniala in the future too.

Honoured war veterans, you deserve our heartfelt thanks for your sacrifices for our homeland. I would like to wish everyone a warm and peaceful Christmas, and good health and strength for the coming years.