UN Peacekeeper helmet returns to south Lebanon 40-years after the establishment of UNIFIL
This month marks 40-years since the establishment of the UNIFIL Peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon. Starting today, and through the month of March, we will look back at the service and sacrifice of thousands of UN Peacekeepers from around the world who have worked for peace and stability in south Lebanon.
The 40th provides an important milestone to reflect on the work of UN Peacekeeping and use photos and stories to pay tribute to these men and women in uniform and the members of the communities who help further peace.
The very first French UNIFIL peacekeeper to set foot in Lebanon was here to do exactly that. It was a young French military photographer, François-Xavier Roch, who placed his boots on Lebanese ground in Beirut airport along with his French contingent. The Warrant Officer had to get out of the plane before his chief, Colonel Jean-Germain Salvan, in order to turn around and photograph the officers and soldiers emerging from the plane.
Although there were already some peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in the UNIFIL area of operation, the first UNIFIL contingent proper to arrive was French. Others then promptly followed, including the Canadian, Irish and Norwegian.
Capt. Roch, who is 71 today and lives in France, recently sent us his helmet from 1978. It was a helmet he had found in Beirut airport upon arrival and painted it blue. As a symbol of the efforts by UNIFIL and the UN to bring, and then keep, peace in south Lebanon, the helmet was presented to the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, during his visit to Lebanon last week.
The legacy of this helmet continues to inspire the 10,500 peacekeepers from 41 countries, who currently work with UNIFIL, in furthering peace in south Lebanon.