Unveiling of Memorial Plaques John Bale, CEO and Co-founder, Soldier On

It is a privilege to be here today to mark the addition of the two new plaques to the Memorial grounds. I know these plaques will be welcomed by many around the country, especially those in the defence community.

Much more than just inscribed bronzed plates, these new plaques pay respect to thousands of veterans both past and present, as well as those who have died in training while preparing to fight for our country.

As the Co-founder of Soldier On, I am grateful veterans affected by their service now have formal recognition at the Australian War Memorial. I’m glad they and their families have a place to come and reflect on their service. This new plaque also gives Australians a place to honour the sacrifices of those who made it home but never truly recovered.

The effects of war are long lasting. Our veterans’ battles do not end the day they step off the battlefield. In fact, for many veterans the end of war marks the start of a new battle.

During the First World War they called it shell shock. Today it is referred to as PTSD. While we are still working towards understanding the full impact of war and service on veterans, what we do know is recognition and support is key.

The unveiling of these new plaques today is a significant step forward in providing these men and women the recognition they deserve. By acknowledging these veterans, we are also paying tribute to the experience of many families across Australia who have had their lives affected.

The next step is to provide support and services to help them recover from these affects and reintegrate back into our society. This is something we are working hard to achieve at Soldier On.

As a member of the ADF you are part of a team, a community, a tribe. Through the good times and the tough times, the community – your unit – supports you to get through. One of the greatest stressors a veteran will ever face is coming home and losing that connection with their unit and team. It is the key to many longer-term issues.

Once veterans leave the Defence Force it can become a lonely world for them. The comradery you had in uniform and the level of trust that exists is almost impossible to truly replicate in the wider world.

We regularly hear from veterans that their greatest fear and stress has been the process, or even just the thought, of leaving the ADF.

That is why Soldier On is focusing on holistic transition and support throughout the lives of veterans and families. This is not a pipe dream; in the Soldier On team we have some of Australia’s leaders in the field of military transition. We believe this will significantly reduce the number of people these plaques represent in the future.

Days like today and symbols of respect like these new plaques are important. They are important because they say as a nation we care about the sacrifices our veterans have made – and continue to make – for our country.

As their battles continue long after the last crackling of gun fire, I hope we as a nation stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these men and women. Now their duty is done, it is our duty to help carry the burden of their service to Australia.

Thank you.

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