I took the photo above as I was walking my dog, Bindi, this morning. The kids in a house in my street had lovingly made tributes to our soldiers and displayed them outside their house. Australians were encouraged to show their appreciation for our military, both past and present, in ways that did not involve breaking the social isolation we have undertaken in the effort to rid ourselves of today’s enemy: Covid-19.
Initially, I felt a bit ordinary that I hadn’t put up some type of display. But it just isn’t me. I’ve marched in Anzac Day parades with both Netball and physical culture as a child and was proud to do so. I used to write to my uncle when he was deployed during the Vietnam War (I was really young and, according to Uncle Phil, his army mates used to tease him about his crayon letters). And I knew I was going to write this blog. What really made me happy though was that a new generation of Australians were being taught about the sacrifices made by our military personnel so that the remembrance would continue.
As an ex-History teacher, I know that students are taught about the wars. They are taught about the bravery and tenacity of our troops. And they are also taught about the human cost: young men killed and maimed, shell shock, PTSD, women coping at home not knowing if their men were okay—not to mention the strain put on many marriages when men returned broken mentally, physically or both. History in schools today is not simply a matter of learning facts and being able to regurgitate those facts in an exam. It is also about analysing those facts and creating an empathetic link.
But what many people don’t realise is that learning and discussing the information and implications at school is not the end of the story when it comes to a remembrance of the past by future generations—particularly in relation to war and soldiers. It is the attitude with which these issues are dealt with in the home that has the biggest influence.
I hate war. I do. The waste of life and resources is heartbreaking. I’ve seen first hand the damage it does to people. But unfortunately, sometimes it is a necessary evil. And I have the utmost respect for those in our armed forces who put their hands up to perform the necessary duties to make this world more just and safe. And we should never forget the sacrifices made so that we can live in a country where self-isolation is the worst thing that is likely to happen to many of us this year. A country where our children are safe to sleep at night—and safe to express their gratitude.