This is how I will remember them.
As a defence spouse, I have watched innumerable people that I love head off to hell on earth.
I am no longer married to the Australian Defence Forces, through divorce, not death. Does this mean Remembrance Day has suddenly lost all meaning for me? No, of course not. How could it? If you have been a part of the Defence community for any length of time, then you have friends, family, or loved ones within the Forces. Today, you will be standing tall, and holding that minute’s silence close to your heart.
On the eleventh of November in 1918, at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour, the Armistice was signed. The ’war to end all wars’ was over. In terms of Australian men, from a population of fewer than five million people, 416,809 men enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.
As Sir Winston Churchill said (as he served in the War) – it was won in the first 20 days. The rest… four years of mud, blood, tears, sweat, misery, gas, pain and death (my words, not his).
We remember. On the eleventh day at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour, the Armistice was signed. Image via Getty Images.
The war lasted from 1914 to 1918.
Operation Slipper, which is the name for the Australian Defence Force contribution to Afghanistan, has seen the first combat deaths for Australian personnel since Vietnam. 41 Australian soldiers have been killed and 256 wounded (another Australian was killed whilst serving with British forces). Every one of these deaths and injuries has been hard felt – and heartfelt – by the nation, because they have been instantly beamed back to us.
We have been in Afghanistan since late 2001.
I watched my (then) husband go to a place I knew very little about from a contemporary perspective, on the understanding that he would be able to Skype me and say ‘yes, everything’s fine’ – not knowing that sometimes the Skype would be from a bomb shelter. Every day was a lesson in ‘WTF’.
I then sat through my best friend in the world embedding with the Americans in a total – well, the word I will use is ‘cluster’, minus the expletive – and to complete the picture, he worked with the ANA as their liaison officer. This was just in case I wasn’t sufficiently freaked out by the fact that he would suddenly disappear for a couple of days because the base was being bombed (so no contact), and family and friends knew that I would have the inside track on what was happening – so the texts and calls would come in thick and fast, because where he was – well, it was pretty much always in the news.