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Estonians mark national day in Helmand

February 25, 2011

Estonians on parade for Independence Day

Estonian soldiers serving alongside Brits in Afghanistan’s Helmand province took a brief break from their duties this week to celebrate their own country’s liberation – achieved 93 years ago.

While back in Estonia the nation spent 24th February celebrating a public holiday, for the country’s soldiers deployed in Helmand there was no such luxury. But they were able to take a break and mark Independence Day by enjoying some traditional Estonian foods, including sausage, herring, sauerkraut, black rye break and root beer.

Most of the 165 Estonian troops in Afghanistan are based in Patrol Base Wahid and surrounding checkpoints in northern Nad-e Ali, where they work alongside British troops from 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment to drive out insurgent elements, restore peace and stability to communities, and develop the capability of Afghanistan’s own armed forces.

To mark the event, the Chief of Staff of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces, Brigadier General Neeme Väli, visited Patrol Base Wahid and presented some of the soldiers and officers with promotions. In addition, the President of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, sent the troops a message via video link.

He told them: “I wish you all a very happy and safe Independence Day. I confirm that our thoughts on this special day are with those who stand for our security.”

The Republic of Estonia was founded on 24th February 1918, when the Salvation Committee declared its independence against Soviet Russia and German forces. The date was celebrated until the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940. Since the restoration of the country’s independence in 1991, Independence Day has once again become a day of celebration and reflection for the Estonian people.

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