Think Piece – Lest We Forget

Source: The Hon Sir Eric Neal AC CVO, former Governor of South Australia and current Chair of the Veterans' Advisory Council.

Anzac Day is not a day to be celebrated; it is a day to be commemorated; a day to honour those who have served our country, particularly those who lost their lives in that service.

The Ode of Remembrance is regularly recited at memorial services such as Anzac Day and it is read out at commemorative events and evening functions hosted by Returned and Services League Sub-branches, Legacy clubs, and ex-service organisations. It is followed by the words ‘Lest we forget’.It is these words that I expand upon.

I can think of no worse situation than that of a serviceman or woman, about to become engaged in a life threatening activity, than to be thinking ‘If I am killed who will remember me? Who will care?’

To me, this is the most important reason for our honouring those who have given their lives for our nation. It is why, in almost every town or village in Australia, there are memorials with the names of those from that locality who served, and in particular those who gave their lives.

The words ‘We will remember them’ and ‘Lest we forget’ have real meaning. ‘Lest we forget’ should, and must, not only relate to those who gave their lives, but also to those who were physically and emotionally wounded by their service and who require medical care, sometimes for the rest of their lives. It explains why the Veterans’ Advisory Council is generally in support of the State Government’s Transforming Health Plan, at the heart of which is to ensure that the best care is delivered first time, every time to all South Australians including veterans.

This will involve the relocation of some, but not all, services currently provided at the Repatriation General Hospital to other hospitals. The Veterans’ Advisory Council is more concerned that veterans receive the absolute best medical attention in the best location rather than seeking to preserve, in its entirety, a World War II facility that is outdated, even though for some it has emotional ties.

‘Lest we forget’ is also applicable to the families of servicemen and women and I applaud the work that the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs does in support of the families of service personnel. I acknowledge the outstanding work done by Legacy, the Returned and Services League, and all ex-service organisations whose volunteers do their best to provide the help and advice to young people that they would have expected from a deceased parent, and for the help and advice provided to War Widows.

Our State Government appointed the Veterans’ Advisory Council seven years ago to ensure that the needs and views of the veteran community can be brought to the attention of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and through him to the attention of our Premier and Cabinet. It is a service that has now been replicated in other states. To me, it is a practical application of ‘Lest we forget’.

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