On November 23rd Lithuania marks the Armed Forced Day and this year the 104 Anniversary of the Restoration of the Armed Forces.
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I am in Vilnius to follow the celebration. The day is cold. It seems that winter has taken its space even if it is still fall. My accommodation is close to the Ministry of Defense. Since early morning a few militaries walk in the narrow streets of the old town.
The first appointment is at the St. Ignatius Church. That is not a normal church. It is the cathedral of the Military Ordinariate of Lithuania. The church of the Armed Forces.
The church is full of soldiers and officers. Ministry of Defense, Arvydas Anušauskas, and the chief of Defense of the Baltic State, Valdemaras Rupšys, take part in the event. The Holy Mass is celebrated by the Archbishop Metropolitan of Vilnius, Gintaras Grušas.
The atmosphere is solemn and there are all the flags of the Lithuanian Army. And Ukrainian flag, too.
The archbishop reminds to all the war in Ukraine. He will not be the only one to remember. Every speech today will refer to the near war.
Many ambassadors, including the Italian one, Mr. Diego Ungaro, are in the square. Before them are deployed the various battalions. Not only Lithuanians but also the representative of the NATO countries that are allocated in the country: Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, Czech Republic, and the US.
The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda is the first one to speak: “…At the time when a brutal enemy is attacking and ravaging Ukraine, we need to understand very clearly that our country, too, is a target for Russian imperial ambitions. We must support Ukraine with all our means because its fight is also our fight”.
The President reminds also that the next NATO summit will be held in Vilnius, in July 2023. An important event for Lithuania and for the security of the entire eastern flank of the European Union.
The Ministry of Defense reaffirms the importance of the support to Ukraine: “I can say with certainty and confidence thar the war in Ukraine, deciding the fate of the democratic world, will only make us more united”. He reminds that support includes training of Ukrainian troops, military assistance and logistic.
Today is also the moment of an important announcement. After long search the remains of the Lithuanian partisan Colonel Juozas Vitkus-Kazimieraitis, killed by the Soviets in 1946, were found. DNA would seem to confirm the finding, even if it still needs in-depth analysis.
A great news for the Colonel’s relatives, but also for the entire country that will finally be able to give him a dignified burial.
The Chief of Defense stresses NATO membership for defending the country. “The era of the military conflicts and wars is not over – says – This year, Russia, a historic threat to our country, launched a war against Ukraine, Theory is over, and the practice has begun”.
The victory is the goal of the freedom and democratic countries. “…Ukraine defended itself from day one and has continued to defend itself ever since, demonstrating an unshakable will and an invincible commitment”.
“…We will win this war and prove once again that we are stronger than the world’s bloodiest dictators”.
The troops are ready for the parade in Gedimino Prospektas. A few kids, with their yellow jackets, run to pick up the bullets fired for the celebrations and they enjoy the day.
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