Wynyard and Russell Streets were lined with a cavalcade of umbrellas on Tuesday, as the citizens of Tumut turned out in the pouring rain to witness this year’s Anzac Day March.
However, as Colonel Mike Kelly said in his speech on the day, a bit of rain is nothing compared to what the diggers went through over 100 years now, as they braved the Turkish gunfire at Gallipoli.
RSL Sub-Branch President Robert Watson lead the morning service at the cenotaph in Richmond Park, with guest speakers Vietnam Veteran and Advocate Ray Lipscombe, and Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly.
Representatives from families and community groups placed wreaths on the cenotaphs in honour of all those Australians who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces.
World War II Veterans Col Hoad, Col Myers and John Tezak placed their hats on the cenotaph, as is tradition.
The Tumut Town Band provided a solemn backing to the hymns, with a second accompaniment provided by the Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilots conducting a flyover salute at 11.45am.
In his speech, Ray Lipscombe spoke about his work as an Advocate, fighting in a voluntary capacity to ensure veterans receive the benefits they deserve from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“In the time I have been an Advocate I have assisted about 250 people and submitted well over 1000 claims in total on their behalf,” he said.
“A range of medical conditions and services are common to all three branches of service: hearing loss, skin problems including melanomas, back complaints due to heavy lifting, and dislocations and injuries resulting in osteoarthritis, to name a few.
“Mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Health Disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and related conditions due to service have been common from World War I through to today. What we now know to be PTSD was referred to as ‘shell shock,’ ‘battle fatigue,’ ‘combat stress reaction’ and other names.”
Mr Lipscombe said he could clearly remember one case in particular, a fighter pilot in World War II who survived combat and progressed naturally into old age.
“It was only when the elderly gentleman started putting out small white crosses with the names of his crew on board in his war veterans home in Lorne that staff realised he had mental health issues, issues he had carried untreated for nearly seventy years,” he said.
“For any current service men and women, I suggest that if you have problems, you get them sorted now.”
He can also speak of the after-effects of war from personal experience. As a veteran of the Vietnam War he has seen first-hand the effect exposure to chemical weapons can have on the human body.
“Sailors, soldiers, and airmen from my generation who served in Vietnam have a rate of prostate cancer well above the average per population, and exposure to Agent Orange is a major cause,” he said.
“Sailors drank water produced from water contaminated with dioxins, which did not burn off during the distillation process and went into the [drinking water]. The best water which had been produced from pristine offshore waters was kept for the ships engines and boilers.
“In my personal experience, out of nine radio transmitters on one particular mission I was part of, three out of the nine now have prostate cancer.”
Mr Watson’s address also spoke of both those who have lost their lives in service to the country, and those who are serving and have served who are alive today.
“On this day we recognise the sacrifice and achievements of these young men and women for an ideal, for a way of life,” he said.
“Let us take strength in the knowledge and hope that our sons and daughters will never forget the example set by their forefathers in our everyday life. Let us endeavour to carry on those traditions established in past wars and conflicts at such tragic cost.
“We think of every man, woman and child who in those crucial years died so that the freedom and lights of humanity might continue to shine. We nurture too the obligation of showing gratitude for the peace we enjoy, and the responsibility of ensuring that freedom and liberty – such a costly one – is not lost to our own indifference.
“So let us mourn with pride, and let us also remember with equal pride, those who served and still live.”
Lest we forget.