Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to Joseph Hildebrand, a soldier, rancher and family man from Saskatchewan who was killed while fighting for freedom in Ukraine.
Joseph died while helping to retrieve casualties near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, an epicentre of fighting in eastern Ukraine. For him, however, this was no ordinary mission, nor was Joseph an ordinary soldier. He was a volunteer, a man who chose of his own free will to go overseas and to put himself in harm’s way by joining the fight, to stay true to his beliefs and to help others.
Being a soldier was Joseph’s calling. Shortly after high school, he served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, where he saw combat and helped train Afghan forces. When he returned home, he worked as a rancher and raised a family, whom he loved dearly. Joseph was a true country boy and he loved his home, but he was always a soldier at heart. It’s hard to believe, but this was not Joseph’s first effort at serving overseas on a volunteer basis. He previously went to great lengths to join the battle in Syria when the conflict broke out there some years ago.
As his family members have described it, Joseph’s desire to serve in the Armed Forces was “an itch he couldn’t scratch” while working as a civilian. When the war in Ukraine broke out, he felt compelled to do his part. For him, it wasn’t a choice — he had to go. Joseph knew that he was doing the right thing by going to Ukraine, even if that meant putting himself in danger.
As senators will know, while Canada has provided support to Ukraine in the form of military aid, supplies and training, our country has not taken an active combat role. Yet a small but brave number of Canadians have gone anyway, and Joseph was one of them. His memory is a testament to those who have died in the ongoing battle for freedom.
Joseph Hildebrand lived and died in service to others. We will never forget his sacrifice. Our hearts are with his friends and family as they endure this difficult time. I hope they take comfort in knowing that he is a hero. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.