He always presented himself with a warm touch and always had kind words for the families back home supporting the troops overseas. I had had a dream - to one day meet this man.
I remember a couple of quotes by General Hillier:
When announcing the Military Family Fund:
"When our families call out for help, we must be able to answer that call immediately and substantially. Our families have been here for us through our enrolment, our training, our deployments, and our homecomings. The military life places significant demands on our loved ones. They did not volunteer for service – but serve they do, and with great distinction. It is our turn to be there for our families.”
Or the time Hillier addressed the families at the Roto 2 Medals Parade when he addressed the families:
“…We know that you are not volunteers and sometimes the load that you carry is much heavier indeed than what we bear. We cannot do our jobs without your support, without your courage, and without your inspiration and for that you have our absolutely deepest gratitude, our appreciation, and thank you very much for your support to all of the families who are here today. “
~ All the best on your retirement General Hillier.
Hillier handed over the reigns today to Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk who succeeded him as Canada's chief of defence staff.
Early Wednesday, before the change-of-command ceremony in Ottawa, Hillier visited Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, a stop he said was the final leg in a tour of respect he has taken over the past month, visiting key burial sites of Canada's fallen soldiers.
"I wanted to complete that journey, if you will, by going by the national military cemetery this morning and just visiting and paying my respects to those young men and one young woman who are buried there and who have served their country and paid the ultimate price for it," he said. "It was something I wanted to do on my last day as chief of defence staff."
Hillier announced in April that he would be moving on after more than three years at the head of Canada's military.
The outspoken and charismatic general, who was known as "a soldier's soldier" by many of his troops, will become the chancellor of Memorial University in St. John's, N.L. as of July 3.
Losing 'soldier' status
He said the most difficult part of leaving the military will be losing his status as a soldier.
"I've been a soldier all my life, really," Hillier said.
"I joined the army as a boy, my wife and I were married quite young, we grew up in the army, and so leaving as a soldier, my goodness, this is an earth-shaking moment for us."
During his time in the post, Hillier oversaw Canada's role in Afghanistan and secured new money and new equipment for the military.
Retired Gen. Lewis MacKenzie said it was at a similar ceremony more than three years ago that Hillier set the bold tone for his term.
"When he took over he figuratively turned to the audience and said we need help, we need more money, we need more people. Everyone was aghast and thought that would be his last outburst," MacKenzie told Canada AM.
"Instead, it was the beginning of three and a half years of fine leadership where the morale of the Canadian Forces was really revitalized."
Hillier said Natynczyk is the perfect candidate to replace him as chief of defence.
"Walt is probably the best officer with whom I ever had the opportunity to work with," Hillier said.
"He's got incredible values, great experience, command time, international time, domestic time. My advice to Walter has been be yourself. You've got those great characteristics that led you to getting the appointment here today. He's a great leader and as I told him I'll be at his beck and call, or not, as he decides."
Natynczyk, who will be promoted from his role as vice-chief of defence staff, has been referred to as a "gentleman's soldier" by Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
He has acknowledged that Hillier will be a tough act to follow, but said he expects to put his own stamp on the military.
Shortly after his appointment was announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Natynczyk, who is affectionately known among the troops as "Uncle Walt," told reporters he was honoured to be selected as the new CDS.
"I'm looking forward to providing the leadership to the men and women of the Canadian Forces, providing security for Canada, for Canadians, and... for all those families of our military men and women," he said.
The change of command ceremony, which began at 10 a.m. ET, was presided over by Governor General Michaelle Jean.
JUST IN: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 1304
General Walt Natynczyk is officially the new Chief of the Defence Staff for the Canadian Forces. General Natynczyk was given the top command in a ceremony at Uplands presided over by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay attended the ceremony."We are torn between sadness at bidding farewell to a general whom we greatly admire and joy at welcoming as the head of the Canadian Forces a generous man and a fine officer," said the Governor General. "These emotions speak volumes of the respect that we have for them both. A respect that resonates at all levels of Canada's military, from myself as commander-in-chief to soldiers of every rank and stripe to their families."The Canadian Forces have the important and challenging responsibility of protecting Canada and Canadians and contributing to international stability," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "It is critical that they have a Chief of Defence Staff that offers strong leadership and expertise.""General Natynczyk has the extensive knowledge and experience necessary to ensure our Canadian Forces continue their fine work into the future," said Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay.General Natynczyk takes over as Chief of the Defence Staff from General Rick Hillier, who assumed leadership in February 2005. General Hillier is retiring from the Canadian Forces after 35 years of dedicated service.