Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs shares his reflections following a trip to visit troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan last month. Photo: CONTRIBUTED
Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan last month. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

There are more than 80,000 men and women of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who put on our nation’s uniform and are prepared to place themselves in harm’s way to help others who can’t necessarily help themselves. On a recent visit to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, I had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of ADF personnel involved in training and advising local security forces.

I met some of Australia’s finest young men and women, pulled together from every corner of the country and united with a great sense of patriotism and purpose to their lives.

On every occasion, I passed on one message from the Australian people: ‘thank you for your service’.

It’s a simple phrase but it can mean a lot when you are spending months away from your loved ones; working in 50 degree heat; concerned for your personal safety; and removed from the simple pleasures of Australian life.

As Australians, we don’t tend to go for the bravado of our American friends and the intensely patriotic recognition of their troops. Caring for our veterans and their families is the best way to honour the service and sacrifice of all those men and women who have served our nation in uniform over the past century. It is also the best way to ensure that their legacy endures and is never forgotten.

But perhaps we need to put aside some of our normally reserved Australian nature and publicly recognise our Navy, Army and Airforce personnel and their families beyond ANZAC Day.

A simple message of ‘thank you for your service’ each time you meet someone in a military uniform is a good start.

Darren Chester MP 

Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs