Your plea for defence personnel

Hype or heartfelt fervour? How is ANZAC Day regarded in 2019? That’s what we asked you in our most recent Flash Poll.

YourLifeChoices’ 230,000 members hold strong views on most topics and the comments and answers from the 1181 respondents to this poll were no exception. Compassion, respect and sorrow shone through, but were interspersed with anger and cynicism and a call for the Government to do more to support our defence force personnel – a call heeded overnight with the Coalition promising a $63 million package for those who have served in the defence forces.

“ANZAC Day is a day we should remember. We lost the cream of our male crop to a stupid war that was uncalled for. Millions of people died for what? Nothing!” was the angry response from one member.

Another said: “People who know nothing of it attending to pat themselves on the back because they attended a dawn service.” And: “Late Gen X and Gen Y have to go to everything whether they understand and respect it or not – then they party.”

An overwhelming 72 per cent of poll respondents believed the Government was failing to adequately support personnel.

Lou wrote: “My husband is a Vietnam veteran. His father served in World War II. There is no glory in war …We should all be proud of service men and women – past, present and future … Our Government must care for these people throughout their lives … DVA (Department of Veterans’ Affairs) pensions should not be means-tested. If a veteran has made it through to retirement age then he/she deserves to be rewarded. Wave the flag, politicians, but back up your patriotism with real support.”

Trebor added: “We need a VETS – Veterans Employment Transition Service  – and some real opportunity in this once-great nation and not just the parcelled-out nonsense that masquerades as opportunity (but [which is] only for selected groups).”

As if hearing member concerns, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that if re-elected on 18 May, the Coalition would spend $30 million building a series of veterans’ wellbeing centres with another $16.2 million going to Soldier On, Team Rubicon and RSL state branches for programs to help former servicemen and women find meaningful jobs.

Amidst the frustration expressed by many poll respondents was a deluge of comments that showed just how special the day is to so many – despite a big number believing that media hype is responsible for the day’s growing popularity.

“ANZAC Day means a lot to me and family having members who have fought in most theatres of war. We attend the dawn service and I march with other veterans on this day in remembrance of mates who did not return and those who have passed since and particularly those who still suffer from war-caused disabilities,” wrote ianfin.

Mick responded: “And that’s exactly what it should be, ianfin. A remembrance by all of us with the families of affected Australians at the top of this list. I’ve been watching ANZAC Day being hijacked by the media and business trying to cash in and the show created has drowned out what the day should signify to all of us – remembering the price of war and the [effect of loss on] families.”

So what was your verdict? Has ANZAC Day become overhyped? That was close to a split decision with 50 per cent saying no and 44 per cent yes. The remaining six per cent were unsure.

Has ANZAC Day become the most important/sacred day on the Australian calendar? A majority of poll respondents (36 per cent) backed this view with the response, ‘Yes, and I like it’. Another 20 per cent said, ‘Yes, and I don’t agree with it’, while 19 per cent said, ‘No, and I’m glad it isn’t’ and 13 per cent said, ‘No, but it should be’. Eleven per cent were unsure.

Forty-two per cent said they did not plan to go to a dawn service, or watch or join a parade, although another 19 per cent said they would like to. Thirty-five per cent were planning to attend an event, and four per cent were unsure.

What does ANZAC Day mean to you? The majority (30 per cent) said it was a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by so many Australians; 26 per cent said it was a reminder of the tragedy of war; 22 per cent regarded it as a thank you to the millions who were and are in Australia’s defence forces, and 21 per cent said the day was one on which to be thankful for the freedom we enjoy.

Others described ANZAC Day as:

  • Not just a reminder of the tragedy of war but also the futility of it all. If only the money spent on armaments could go to ensuring peace.
  • How politicians make decisions to send our forces to war while they sit at home safe and sound and how our forces do us so proud and stand so tall even when the politicians have made very poor decisions.
  • Remembering relatives who died so young, leaving no children to remember them.
  • The stupidity and futility of war oft repeated.
  • A reminder of the terrible waste of life and resources. And a constant reminder of man’s inhumanity to man in war conditions, which should be a vital deterrent against ever going to war again.
  • The day, at Gallipoli, when Australia came of age. Considered as British even though Federation was 1901, the incompetence of the British generals at Gallipoli and in the trenches of the Western Front and with huge losses we became an internationally recognised nation in our own right.
  • The day I remember the pain and suffering my late husband and all war veterans suffered and are still suffering.
  • A chance to catch up with my defence mates and to remember the fallen and to look after the living.

Some poll respondents decried the focus on “the white Anglo Australian archetypal digger which is insulting to Aboriginal diggers, women and others who helped the war effort …”, while new Australians gave their thanks “to this beautiful country Australia”. “I’m passionate about Australia and the Australian way of life,” wrote Jennifer. “We are truly blessed to be living in this wonderful homeland.”

But the final word goes to ronloby: “I am ex-air force and I had an uncle killed on the Sandakan Death March in World War II and two great-uncles killed in France in World War I. These, along with thousands of other brave diggers, must never be forgotten! Lest we forget.”

Has war touched you or a loved one? Do you believe it is possible for a civilian to truly understand the effects of war?

Related articles:
Commemorating ANZAC Day
Australia Day date ‘must be changed’
Time to change the national anthem?

Written by Janelle Ward

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