ANZAC Day readings 2013 - Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG
These were the words read by Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG before the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial on 25 April 2013.
(view the video thanks to ABC news)
Sgt Jed Wheeler, 6 Battalion, after his Platoon was engaged in heavy close contact with the Taliban in the Mirimbad Valley:
My adrenalin was slowly wearing off and was being replaced by deep fatigue. I lay in my stretcher with the smell of Cordite embedded in my nose, my ears ringing, and my whole body covered in a film of Afghan dust.
Relief washed over me. My boys, my family, were uninjured, alive, and safe; for now. Tomorrow was another day, and it was going to happen all over again.
Sapper Owen Perry, 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, tasked with locating Improvised explosive devices:
“When I wasn’t able to do anything I was feeling helpless; my mates were out there day after day doing the job, and if you can’t go out there with them you get a real feeling of helplessness, because they’re your mates.
The old fighting for queen and county garbage goes out the window; you only do it for your mates."
Pte Gary Wilson, 2nd CDO Regt, Wounded in Action, Northern Kandahar 2010:
I loved my first tour of Afghanistan; I was helping to protect my mates and was very proud of the progress we were making!
Since returning home I have had to re-learn everything, how to sit, stand, balance, walk, talk, eat, even drive! Everything that is so easily taken for granted.
I, like all of our wounded brothers continue to work as hard as I can to recover, and regain the life I once had.
Reflections from Cpl James Dwyer, Medical Corp, 2010:
We had been in Afghanistan for a month now, enough time for the nerves to subside and the routine to set in.
Days on operations can blur together, become monotonous, time can become irrelevant – You focus only on the mission at hand.
Today was different for me though, I was anxious and worried - not because I was in Afghanistan, but because thousands of kilometres away I was about to become a father for the second time, to a son – a son, I feared, I may never meet.
I wait nervously for a few hours before I use the Satellite Phone, I make a phone call to my wife – I hear her voice, she cries, it breaks me inside. My wife tells me our son is doing well, I ask her to tell me what he looks like – “Just like you” she says “But with red hair!” I laugh as tears well in my eyes.
I still have another month to see out before my leave arrives and I get to hold my son for the first time. When I finally meet my son, I hold him and I cry. He is beautiful.
A member of the Special Air Service Regiment describes the actions of a comrade in the Chora Pass 2006:
The boys were taking a pasting, recoilless rifle, mortar, machine gun and RPG fire was pouring in, that’s when one of our cars was hit with an RPG!
Out of the three of them he was the only one left unscathed, the crew commander got it the worst, took some bad shrapnel in the neck and face and fell out of the car, and even with all that fire coming in, he just ran around to the exposed side of the car and picked his crew commander up, put him back in the vehicle and held onto him as he drove through the most horrendous fire to get the boys to safety, mateship at its finest!
WO Paul Boswell, Corp of Artillery, Helmand Provence, 2009:
One day, I was confronted by a young Captain who was a customer of the gun line a week earlier.
He and his patrol had been caught in an Ambush North of Musa Qala. His teams were passing through our FOB and he dropped into our command post.
He wanted to pass onto the lads his thanks for getting him and his boys out of trouble. On that particular day he had lost one of his soldiers to Taliban fire and could not get back in to extract his body due to the ferocity of the contact. The guns enabled the suppression and screening that allowed him to collect his lad and break clean.
I don't recall a moment in my tour that I was prouder of the lads than at that point.
A Digger from 3rd Battalion:
My first feelings were anger. Anger that these blokes had to die so far from home in such a horrible way. I also felt guilt!
How could I feel sadness for guys I didn’t even know? But I did! I felt I had no right to because the others that were so close to them had it worse than me, why do I have the right to feel upset?
I remember being in the shower and crying over people I never knew, I felt so guilty and I still do. Even writing this I cant help tears that I’ve held in for months.
SGT C Fallon, Ordinance Corp, Rotary Wing Group Kandahar:
At this moment I am proud, proud of my wife and her efforts back home, proud of my country, proud that I am serving my country, proud of my mates’ service and proud of the sacrifices we all make in order to serve.
As the unmistakable thud of the ‘chook’ taking off resonates around the airfield, I close my eyes and say a little prayer for the team heading out and wish them well as they head into the darkness.
I will catch a couple of hours sleep and do it all over again, because this is what I do, and where I want to be.
A Memory of Afghanistan - Major General John Cantwell, former National Commander of Australian forces in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East:
The patrol base sits in one of the war-torn valleys of Uruzgan Province in southern Afghanistan, a crude rectangle of earth-filled barricades.
The place is rough and ready, a base for combat operations with few creature comforts. The Australian soldiers who share the patrol base with Afghan Army troops are also a bit rough and ready. Their uniforms are stained and faded by sweat, their hair is untrimmed and many have several days growth of whiskers.
Their faces have been tanned a deep brown by the relentless summer sun and every ounce of fat has been burned from their bodies. They have been out here for months, patrolling nearly every day.
The insurgents have attacked them with bullets, bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. They have lost several mates, killed in action or badly wounded.
Despite this, I am rewarded with an easy grin and a firm handshake from each of the Diggers as I walk around the base, saying g'day. I sit and talk to them, asking about the local security situation, their families or the Ute they plan to buy when they get home. I cop a few cheeky comments and laugh with them. This is the best part of my job.
Squadron Leader Sharon Cooper, commander of a RAAF Combat Surgical Team in Afghanistan in 2008:
Today we received the largest number of Australian combat casualties in one attack since the Vietnam War. It is not at all surprising that my team did a magnificent job, and although I know that having Aussies come through the trauma doors tugged at their heart strings, they conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism, compassion and good old Aussie mateship.
My heart swells with pride to think of their actions on this night. There is little more confronting than treating one who wears your uniform. I ask myself how I return home, how I return my team home, if we leave one of our own behind.
As we worked with our Australian casualties I made a concerted effort to remember the Christian names of each of the boys as we treated them so that when I spoke to their mates and Commanders throughout the night, I hoped that I could convey that the boys were as important to us as they were to them, and that there was absolutely no chance that we would leave them behind.
WO Brett Donaldson, Corp of Artillery, 2012:
The Insurgents saturated the FOB (Forward Operating Base) with airburst RPGs, 82 mm mortars and 30 mm grenades aiming to allow two smaller Insurgent groups to achieve a break in.
Realising the deteriorating situation, two Australian Bombardiers took the initiative and engaged the numerous Insurgent groups’ positions with their light Howitzer in the direct fire role.
Whilst engaging the Insurgents the two Bombardiers also gave fire control orders to other personnel within the FOB to engage the Insurgents resulting in the regaining of the initiative and the defence of the FOB. The actions carried out by the Australians earned the admiration of both their subordinates and superiors within the British and Danish Forces.
“A Young Brave Man” by young Connor Dawson, written of Sapper Curtis McGrath, Corp of Engineers, wounded in action Afghanistan 2012
Out in the sands of Afghanistan,
There once fought a young brave man.
A sapper, a soldier, family or mate.
But to all he was nothing short of mighty and great.
He served as a hero in a foreign land,
Out in the sun scorched golden sands.
He fought in an army, who fought under a rising sun.
Supported by his nation, friends, family and a loving mum.
For the ones he loved, he came to fight,
Fight for their every freedom and right.
So for what he believed in, he came over here.
And the sacrifice he made, sure was dear.
In this war, this desert fight,
he gave his legs, one Friday night.
But without those legs, this is not his end.
For those he loves, he will still defend.
And although, at the moment, he cannot stand tall.
That does not mean, his spirit is going to fall.
For he is still a soldier, mighty and strong
And he will finish his journey, no matter how long.
One day he may walk, one day he may run,
But either way, nothing will stop him from having fun.
For he is an ANZAC, who fights no matter the cost
And though great the sacrifice, his battle is never lost.
His old body is gone, but his new one is steady,
For every challenge ahead, he sure will be ready.
Although no longer in the sands of Afghanistan,
There still fights, a young brave man.
Tpr F, of the Special Air Service Regiment, describes his last mission in Afghanistan
For a split second as I was crawling forward on my hands and knees, towards my wounded mate, I couldn’t help but think, ‘this is déjà vu’. What seemed like yesterday was the same situation occurring again, just in a different Afghan valley.
Five years ago, I battled to save, but in the end had to watch a mate die - my heart had broken. Four years ago, I reassured and held the hand of a mate who had his legs blown off - my heart had shattered. And only three years ago, it was happening to me, as I found myself staring down at my own lifeless bloodied limbs after two machine gun bullets ripped through both my legs.
And here I was today, watching another mate, another brother, suffer this indescribable pain.
Soaked in mud made wet from his own blood and the hot sand around us, and still receiving heavy fire, we did all we could to save him. This day was not his day.
The Wife of Sgt Blaine Diddams, Killed in action, Chora Valley 2012
You have made us all so very proud! A loyal mate, a courageous solider who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but mostly a loving Dad and husband. I can only Hope you have made a difference.
Keegan Locke, son of Sgt Mathew Locke MG, Killed in Action, Chora 2007.
I often dream about him coming back to mum and I. Whenever something challenges me and I think of giving up, I can feel dad looking down on me and cheering me on, just like those young years at rugby.
His death left a hole in my heart, but his spirit has given me the motivation to push myself further then ever before, I truly believe he has given me the gift, of the Anzac spirit.
Private Benjamin Chuck, 2nd CDO Regt, killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash, Afghanistan, 21 June 2010.
Hey baby, I waited till the night before going out to write this – put off is more like it.
Obviously I didn’t think that I’d die. No one does. The way I look at it is – if it’s your time, it’s your time. I just wanted you to know how special you are to me.
You are the sweetest, kindest and prettiest girl I’ve ever met. I’m so happy you chose me and we got to spend the last 18 months together.
I am sorry to put you through this. Please forgive me and I hope you find someone down the track to make you happy, although matching me will be a hard task.
You’ll always be with me my love and I with you.