Reflecting on the past this Remembrance Day

Senior Helpers Master Franchisor, Leonie Williams

As a 5th generation Australian, I have lived to see more than 70 annual Remembrance Days, honouring the lives and sacrifices of Australian soldiers on foreign soil. While ANZAC Day is part of our nationhood, for many years, what this meant was seen through different eyes as the generations and our society has evolved.

Did I have a family member at Gallipoli? It was not until the age of almost 50 that I was able to attest to the role one of my family members played on the 25th April, 1915 along with his mates at Gallipoli. Yes, he survived and went on to fight in Europe on the Eastern Front and survived that too. He also enlisted for service in the Second World War, but on home soil.

Understanding the broader effects of war and conflicts

While we may think of these feats and glorify their role, the actual sacrifice was more than many of them expected. There is a saying that if we fail to look at our history, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes. Was serving our country wrong? Not at all. But as a nation, we need to be more aware of the toll this has on the lives of those who serve and return, and for the families of those who serve and return. While there is a growing awareness of the long term emotional, physical and mental effects of active military service, this is not a new phenomenon.

In my journey to find my relative among the Gallipoli troops, and subsequently other First and Second World War family veterans, I learned through their military records and civil records the recurring themes of exposure to unbelievable environments. Exposure to illness and misery of contracting diseases in the field due to poor sanitation, poor water, poor food and inadequate shelter. All that these men had were each other – their mates. Among my relatives, there were prisoners of war in Germany and South East Asia. Battlefields included Gallipoli, the Somme, Singapore, Papua New Guinea and many more. Some never returned, most did, but were changed forever.

Learning from the past

Remembrance Day is not ANZAC Day. Remembrance Day recalls the horror of the world’s first Great War and the day when peace fell on the battlefields in Europe. This was to mark a time in history that should not be forgotten, and the sacrifice of too many for too little. But we do not seem to have heeded this lesson of history.

Remembrance Day is also a time to appreciate what our forefathers (and foremothers) did, in the belief that they would protect the land we live on through their contribution and sacrifice. Would they want us to dwell on the horrors they endured? I think not. But we should understand that from this hardship we have a bold and beautiful country in which to live. Remembrance is also thanks and appreciation for each new day that is today.

Acknowledging the contributions of veterans

Remembrance Day is also the time to consider this generation’s military contributions on foreign and home soil. Families today have the situation of separation, concern over potential injury, illness and death in active circles overseas as well as supporting Australians in the minimisation of COVID transmission. Our military also assist with natural disaster management here and in the Pacific region. Their reach is wide and broad.

Let’s consider the long-lived contributions made by our military men and women, understanding that their journey back into civilian life has not been easy. As home care providers at Senior Helpers, we have the occasional opportunity to provide services to veterans directly. To all veteran and ex-service personnel, we say thank you and we honour you for your service this Remembrance Day.

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