Sufferings of War and Service

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Alex Seton, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish (artist concept), image by Mr.P Studios

The Australian War Memorial has worked with veterans and their advocates to commission a work of art to recognise and commemorate the suffering caused by war and military service. This art work represents those affected by operations and during training; in war and on peacetime service.

For Every Drop Shed in Anguish will provide a place at the Memorial for those who have experienced and witnessed the ongoing trauma that can result from service, and for Memorial visitors to reflect on this experience.

By providing overdue recognition and understanding of the scars caused by service, both seen and unseen, it is hoped that this work of art will assist someway in recovery.

 

“It is hoped the sculpture will provide a point of connection to all who have suffered as a consequence of service, whether their own, or someone close to them. ….remarkable sculpture will recognise that the blood, sweat and tears shed in anguish, whether in training, deployment or operations was not in vain”

Matt Anderson, Director of the Australian War Memorial

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Historically, this suffering has not been acknowledged. Attention is rightly given to those who died during war. However, those who survived and were left with mental suffering from wounds and injuries sustained in service, or exposure to intense trauma, dangerous or life-threatening conditions, often felt forgotten.

This commission follows discussions with current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, and the family members of those who have served, about how best to recognise those who have suffered as a result of their service. 

Australian artist Alex Seton was unanimously selected by veterans and their loved ones to create this work of art. For Every Drop Shed in Anguish, a field of sculpted Australian pearl marble droplets, will installed in the Sculpture Garden in 2023.

“I like that this piece has no heroes. It is a space for everyone to be acknowledged or educated. Whether a veteran, family member, partner or teacher, you can grieve, remember and educate our Australian community on the ultimate sacrifice of war.” 

Connie Boglis, partner of Afghanistan veteran, Jesse Bird, who died by suicide 

“Every droplet has a unique shape, defined by its delicate surface tension, as if about to burst. Their rounded liquid forms suggest blood, sweat or tears — for every drop ever shed in anguish. Most importantly, when touched these forms reveal themselves to have an inner strength and resilience that provides hope and promise of healing.”

Alex Seton

“I sincerely believe that Alex Seton’s work will enhance our ability to continue the conversation we have begun within the walls of the Memorial – this story must be transferrable to the national discourse – a truth telling of how war does come home and how accumulative service does have consequences.  Alex’s vision, while speaking to this truth, opens the horizon to hope and new promise. The Australian Veteran Community and most significantly – their families need to know and feel this hope and new promise”.

Karen Bird, mother of Jesse Bird 

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Alex Seton, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish (artist concept), image by Mr.P Studios

 

Articles

Warning: the following stories discusses suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder. If you or someone you know needs help, support is available. Contact details for support services are available at the foot of this page. 

 

The forgotten soldiers

Psychological and neurological reactions to the trauma of war are as old as the history of human conflict itself, but in the early 1900s psychological trauma was rarely linked with military service and treatment was rarely made available to those who were suffering.

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'The army was all I knew'

Pennie Looker knows all too well about the sufferings of war.

As a sergeant in the Australian Army Psychology Corps, she was acutely aware of the impact of service and how it affected people.

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'Without Ivy ... I wouldn't be here'

Wherever Jason Safaric goes, Ivy is always by his side.

“Without Ivy, I can tell you right now, I wouldn’t be here,” Jason said.

Ivy is Jason’s service dog.

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'My Jesse was still at war'

When Jesse returned from Afghanistan in 2010, his family knew straight away that something was wrong. He was “not the same person” who had joined the army as an athletic, charismatic and confident young man in 2007.

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Journeys in my head: an artist’s record of the cost of service

Once seen, this powerful depiction of a veteran’s suffering postwar is hard to forget. One of the most confronting works in the Australian War Memorial’s art collection, Journeys in my head is Trevor Lyons’ record of the scars, seen and unseen, of his ADF service. 

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'Everyone who survived that day was lucky'

It was 29 October 2011, and Robert Althofer was at Patrol Base Sorkh Bed in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province when, without warning, an Afghan soldier calmly fired his assault rifle at a group of Australian soldiers who had been tasked with mentoring the Afghan National Army.

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“The artwork is an expression of acceptance of being broken or imperfect."

In December 2021, a 19-tonne block of marble was delivered from the red dirt of outback Queensland to a warehouse in the inner-west of Sydney. Over the next two years, the rough-hewn block will be transformed by artist Alex Seton into a commemorative artwork, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish.

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About the Artist

Alex Seton

Alex Seton (b. 1977) is an Australian artist best known for his marble carving. He uses the techniques and languages of classical sculpture to create unexpected contemporary forms. His recent work engages with current political issues impacting Australia, particularly in relation to conflict and nationhood. Seton’s work grapples with grand narratives through a humanist lens. His work As Of Today (2011–), which memorialises those Australians who lost their lives as a result of service in Afghanistan, is displayed at the Australian War Memorial.

Alex Seton’s work has been exhibited in Australia and internationally and is held in public and private collections. He is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore.

“The concept of unique drops of blood, sweat and tears touches my soul. It reflects the stories and struggles of many of my friends, their families and their loved ones. It is an open and accessible space that will provide a powerful sense of place for many veterans and their families.”

Ben Farinazzo, veteran with PTSD

Development of Sufferings of War and Service is supported by veterans with lived experience of wounds, injuries and mental illness sustained as a result of service, and their families; the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex Servicemen and Women; Soldier On; the Department of Veterans Affairs; and the Department of Defence. Representatives from ex-service organisations were consulted in the development of this commission.

If you, or someone you know requires support, please contact:

Open Arms: Veterans and Families Counselling (24 Hours) 1800 011 046

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Support services
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1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

Provides 24-hour counselling services to help you cope with sexual assault or violence.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

24 hour, 7 days a week telephone and online counselling for anyone affected by suicide, including people at risk, carers and those bereaved by suicide.

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Provides private and confidential counselling for young people aged 5–25 years.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

Telephone and online counselling service offering support for Australian men.

Head to Health

Provides resources and links to a variety of websites and apps to support veteran mental health and wellbeing.

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