Today is a day of national significance, and one that is personally significant given I’ve spent 10 years as a member of the Army Reserve. Today we remember those that have served in the defence of our great country, and the countless men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our ongoing freedoms.
Regardless of how you feel about war, the government, or the necessity of our involvement in conflicts thousands of kilometres away, in my opinion, the debate on these things should be left to another day.
A soldier signs up to serve their country and the government of the time, regardless of their personal opinion. They subject themselves to additional scrutiny, give up control of their personal time, and agree to live where the military decides that they need them. A soldier goes where he is told, trains to defend his country’s interests through force and other means and deploys as he is ordered.
Soldiers don’t expect a thanks or a big deal made about them, and this is evident in the fact that most veterans don’t want to be called out, whether modern day soldiers, or soldiers from the era of the great Wars.
Very soon we will no longer have any veterans of the great wars left, as age captures up with these amazingly resilient people who endured the unthinkable and achieved military victories in some of the most arduous conditions you could imagine. The great thing about this generation of soldiers is that they returned to a grateful nation.
Those that served more recently though, never returned to a country that was appreciative of their sacrifices. Their service has meant they have missed key milestones in the lives of their friends and family due to operational requirements. It has meant periods of time in arduous conditions training to fight any enemy that threatens. It has meant moving around to meet service needs, and time away from friends and family. And for their immediate family it has meant moving with their soldier to wherever the military determines they are needed, as well as enduring long and frequent periods of time without them present.
And for those that have deployed, not only do they put themselves in danger (which they and their mates willingly accept), but they are forced to make impossible choices because of a current enemy that has no moral compass and will willingly undertake unspeakable acts in the pursuit of its goals.
If that is not enough, the rules of engagement they must abide by prevent them from intervening in situations where horrific crimes are being committed in front of them. These situations create complex moral injuries as these soldiers return from conflict and have to try to come to terms with the ‘right’ thing versus the legally approved outcome, and the constant ‘what if’ that will plague them for years to come.
Why am I bringing this up? It is because that while the justification or usefulness of a war may be debated, being a soldier is an increasingly difficult and thankless task that requires significant personal sacrifice from the soldier, and their loved ones. And today of all days, that service deserves to be recognised above all else.
So today, if you see an old man wearing a medal, take the time to say g’day and talk to him about his service because he will enjoy the conversation, and someday he will not be around to impart the important stories of his experience of war. And if we do not learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.
And, if you see a younger man with medals or in uniform, it will mean the world to him if you simply acknowledge his service.
And more than that, if one of these people is in the company of their loved ones, acknowledge the sacrifice that their loved ones make, because while their soldier is away they have to get by without them, shoulder the burden of whether they will remain safe, and do their best to keep families together, raise children and otherwise in a location that they have no control over and an environment that can be hugely isolating.
To those that have ever donned the ‘Green’, and equally to those that have supported them, a sincere Thank You this Anzac Day.
Lest we Forget.