Commemoration must be more than ceremony. Its real value lies in a renewed commitment to enduring values. Values of mateship, sacrifice, protecting others, taking action and having each others’ backs are the cornerstone, not just of the ANZAC legend but all those who serve our country and community.
Most Australians will take a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day to commemorate those who died or suffered in our 20th century wars. But, it is what we all do after that minute finishes that defines us and will truly honour the sacrifice of those who have died in service to the nation.
Will you take an extra minute to support our younger veterans still struggling to find their place in the Anzac tradition and the Australian community?
The veterans that returned from the First World War, did so to a community that understood their sacrifice. This is not the case for our modern veterans.
Through the Centenary of Anzac community awareness of the modern veteran has improved but it still has a long way to fully appreciating and understanding their service.
This year we mark the 70th anniversary of Australian peacekeeping efforts – service that it as challenging and often as traumatic as war.
Our understanding of service has to evolve to reflect the full scope of national security service in the 21st century if we are to honour the true purpose of Remembrance Day.
The best way to focus the last part of the centenary of Anzac is to link it to support for those who have most recently served. Feeling alienated from the country and community you served is especially painful. harmful.
A feeling all too pronounced for those that served in the Vietnam War. The tragic rates of PTSD, social isolation, intergenerational trauma and suicide experienced by Vietnam Veterans are directly correlated to our rejection of them. Tragically, for too many modern veterans their experience is proving to be the same of those who returned from Vietnam. Our treatment of our Vietnam Veterans must serve as a stark reminder the importance of community support, and our acceptance of veterans and their families.
True Remembrance constitutes two minutes – the first minute of silence for quite reverence and contemplation; the second is to decide how you will engage and empower our younger veterans and their families who walk among us.
What will you do? Will it be to educate yourself about what Australia asks of its current serving men and women? Or will it be to build a better understanding of the conflicts we have recently been involved in? Or will it be to reach out to veterans in your community or workplace and inquire about their service, perhaps to employ one?
Whatever you decide, committing to educate yourself on who these younger veterans are and what they have done will make a significant difference.
An Australian community who is engaged with its modern veterans can better support them and take a sense of pride in their previous and future achievements.
Veterans themselves should also take an extra minute.
We can better support each other. Take the minute to commit to calling some mates and check-in and check-in on yourself.
As a group we, have internalised negative stereotypes about seeking help. This means we often repress issues about our own well-being.
By committing within the minute to prioritising ourselves, we are taking a step to building good social networks, meaningful employment, positive relationships, better physical health and better mental health.
If in this self-reflection we find we need help, reaching out should not induce shame. The community has shown a commitment by establishing programs to help empower veterans and their families. Not accessing them benefits nobody.
Towards the end of the Centenary of Anzac we have an opportunity to deepen the connection between the Australian community and our modern veterans. Putting aside the myths we can start to understand the people who serve and secure their passage back into the Australian community, while empowering their futures.
It all starts by taking an extra minute silence this Remembrance Day.
John Bale is a veteran, chief executive and co-founder of the veteran support organisation Soldier On.