Start a conversation this Anzac Day

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.



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Comments 13

  1. Thankyou that was well thought out and put together. Every one needs to read and hear this through out our country and our schools should be teaching it . THankyou

  2. Aiden, as a (TPI) Veteran I endorse your words. However …

    You highlight the difference between a society indebted to servicemen (WW1 & WW2) and the more recent cohort that pays lip service to the fact of ‘respecting Servicemen’.

    I don’t march as I view Anzac Day as a celebration of lip service.

    For example, since the 1970’s, Veterans have experienced 2 troubling issues; mental health and suicide.

    Back in the 1970’s, the government paid lip service to these two issues. It was only after diagnosis, that Veterans could access a Mental Hospital for care. We Veterans of the Vietnam conflict fought long and hard for the government of the day to recognise the need for eas(ier) access to mental health care; that is, without the the formality of ‘diagnosis’ (and the associated stigma).

    Today, Veteran suicide still lacks governmental – and thereby societal – support.

    As you correctly point out, Veterans need more than a (lip service) parade once a year. Year long acknowledgement would certainly be appreciated.


    352991 Gnr B Moon

  3. With 44 years service and a veteran from two deployments and havein comnpleted 18 removals to different parts of the country with my family, I can endorse your comments about the difficulties that service spouses face. It takes a special person to deal with all the stresses the service puts on them and they get even less acknowledgement than the service personnel.

  4. Great sentiments in your article but as someone who has served on the frontline of Air Force for over 30 years, I trust when you use the term ‘soldier’, you are referring in a generic sense to all Service humans, including sailors and airmen?

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  5. I note that you only mention soldiers in your repertoire. Well let me advise you it was not only soldiers on the ground in all these conflicts. The Navy played a huge part in transporting soldiers and providing covering fire to protect those on the front line as well as convoy protection. The Airforce conducted bombing raids as well as dropping army personnel behind enemy lines. In the more recent conflicts all three services were deployed in various roles to provide assistance where it was needed. So in conclusion and in the future please don’t forget to include all the services as well as the reserve forces. Remember to remember, lest we forget.
    An ex veteran of 23 1/2 yrs service.

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      Hi Stan, thanks for the comments. It may not be perfectly PC, but when I say soldier, I mean anyone that is a defence member, no matter the service. And while my experience has been as a reservist, the focus of my article has more been on the regular forces personnel. Thanks for your service!

  6. Hi Aiden, as a Vietnam Veteran myself I would like to say thank you for your words and your service as well. I noted that some people were upset that you used the word Soldier only in your comments, but when I think of your words I see all service personnel as being referred to as Soldiers, all service personnel are taught to be SOLDIERs first, in that we are all taught to shoot and live in a WAR.
    Have a great life.
    Ex Sgt ARMY

  7. Every male member of my family and some of the females, going back to the American War of Independence (on the British side) have served in the military. With 2/3 of them serving on active service. I served in the Australian & Rhodesian Army during the 70’s with over 10 years service, 3 on Active Service. It is a time I hold close to my heart given the loss of some family members either in the field or from the affects of war that haunted them all their lives.

    Let’s not try understand them but support them.

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