Pulling on a uniform has been a very big part of my life. I’ve served in the Australian Army, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Protective Service and in 2008 was appointed Sheriff of New South Wales. I’ve been attached to the New Zealand Army and the British Army and I’ve served alongside soldiers of various other nations. On days like today, Remembrance Day, while I take time to reflect on how my service has shaped me, my most important consideration is to reflect on how military service has impacted others. Specifically, I refer to our veterans and their families.
It’s no secret that the past fifteen years have seen a new generation of young people all around the world exposed once again to the same horrors of their forebears who saw action in the Great War. It’s tragic to see young veterans bearing the same physical injuries and disfigurement that we thought we’d put an end to in the war to end all wars a hundred years ago.
Clearly, we didn’t. Just as in the aftermath of that war and many wars since, there are as many young veterans returning home with the wounds we can’t see. Of course, their families know only too well that while the veteran may not have returned with obvious physical trauma, the mental trauma they carry continues to have a devastating effect.
Today, Remembrance Day, our Prime Minister was engaged by a number of charities that have emerged in response to the need to look after our returned veterans. I trust that the doors providing access to the Prime Minister will not now be gently closed behind him but will in fact remain open for veterans groups to continue the dialogue. After all, when any nation elects its citizens to high office to represent them, and those elected citizens make decisions committing a generation of brave young people to be put in harms way on our behalf, is it not then our obligation to thank them unreservedly when they return by taking care of them, no matter what? Yes, it is.
I have the great privilege of being the inaugural ambassador for a new charity called Veterans’ Off The Streets Australia. When I approached VOTSA and asked what I could do to assist, the role of ambassador was suggested and I was honoured to accept. The reason that this particular charity caught my attention was quite simply that I could not fathom that we would have, in 2015, men and women who have been protecting us and taking incalculable personal risks in our name, returning home so damaged from the experience that they could fall off the grid and disappear into the systemic abyss of homelessness.
I mean, how can we line our streets on days like Anzac Day and the equivalent veterans days around the world, knowing that there are thousands of our veterans living rough, scavenging food from bins on our streets in desperate need of the care and respect of the society they have willingly served and sacrificed everything for, when every one of them should be marching alongside their comrades, receiving the cheers and praise of a grateful nation.
Today while you are giving thought to your family members or close friends who may have served, or even if you’re contemplating your own service, please spare a moment for those who have fallen off the grid and are sleeping rough tonight and every night. If you’re so inclined, please contact VOTSA or the equivalent charity where you live, and make a donation. Every cent counts. And, if you’d like to offer your time to becoming an ambassador, then let them know. It’s really just about spreading awareness; the more of us who know about this, the more we can do together to help out.
Lest we forget.
Image credit: military.com