25 April 2018, RAAF Base, Wagga, NSW, Australia
Welcome to our Base on this important day for our Defence Force and for our community.
Everyone here got up very early this morning. For some that might be normal; but for most a very special effort has been made to be here.
And why are we here?
We each have different connections, different stories, different reasons that bring us all together in the dark to wait for the Dawn.
For some of us Anzac Day has an intensely personal connection. We remember a mate, a relative or a colleague who gave their life for their country. Like the local Wagga family the Meiklejohns, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year. They lost their beloved brother Robert in 1943, when his bomber went down over the Belgian town of Hamont-Achel. His memory is preserved in the story and song that you can learn about in the Heritage Centre behind me.
Some of us have served and returned, recently or a long time ago. Not all of us fit the traditional stereotype of the “veteran “. We are young and old. We are women and men. Some of us struggle with things that we cannot un-see. And decisions that we cannot un-make. For some of us Anzac Day is the hardest day of the year. As MAJ Clare O’Neill described: “it is difficult to share the horrors with people outside the military field when it is those people who you served to keep the horrors from.”
Some of us are current serving members of the Navy, Army and Air Force. We honour our colleagues who have served proudly before us and we hope that should we ever be placed in their position, we will act in a way that brings pride to ourselves, our families and our country. That if we are truly tested, we will be steadfast, selfless and compassionate.
And some of us here today are our neighbours and our friends. The Forest Hill and Wagga community. Who welcome us here in their town every day and who honour and respect those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Whatever our individual reasons for being here, we find ourselves close together as the light begins to shine over the Riverina, like it did on that first Anzac Day so many years ago.
We remember those who have gone - their steadfastness, their selflessness, their compassion and their comradeship.
We remember young lives taken away, and veterans of all ages who bear the scars of their service for a lifetime.
We come together with respect, with a deep sense of connection, and with hope for a peaceful future.
And we hold our community close. Our friends, our families, our neighbours and our town of Wagga.
Lest we forget