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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A time to pause and reflect, Veteran says

While Anzac Day ceremonies will look different across the region in 2021, residents have been encouraged to commemorate in any way they can this Sunday 25 April.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has put restrictions on many events, with some even being cancelled.

Newcastle’s Dawn Service and United Commemorative Service will still go ahead but are invite-only and the main service will not include a march.  

While there has been some community backlash surrounding these decisions, Veteran and City of Newcastle RSL Sub-Branch president Peter Green OAM says the region should still pay its respects.

“For me it’s that opportunity to pause and reflect on the service of so many who have made such a sacrifice and paid such a price so we could live as we do,” he said.  

“It is an honour to be able to do it – for starters it is great to be alive because unfortunately there are many others who did not get to live the rest of their lives out, they died so we could live ours.”  

Peter is someone who knows about this sacrifice, having given much of his own life to helping the country he calls home.  

Almost 34 years ago he enlisted in the Army, where he was trained as a Sapper in the Royal Australian Engineers.

He has served at every enlisted rank up to Regimental Sergeant Major, in a wide variety of units here and overseas.  

“I was also later commissioned and eventually retired late last year as a Major,” he added.

“As a Combat Engineer I was trained in bomb disposal as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician.

“I [have been] deployed overseas on operations numerous times, to South West Africa, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as on domestic counter terrorism security operations in support of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.  

“I was also selected to serve on secondment with the British Army, and later with the US Army. 

“[During] my first overseas deployment I was barely 21 years old, and during my most recent deployment I turned 52.”  

He adds that expectations for Anzac Day appear to be high in 2021.  

“I think the expectation for this year is far greater than 2020 because Anzac Day occurred during an actual lockdown where you had to remain at home except for one of four reasons and attending a service was not on the list,” he said.

“So, we all commemorated at home at the end of our driveway as we were permitted, but the difference this year is that the restrictions appear to be less but the requirement to keep the community safe from transmission is just as high.”  

Current Army Reservist Sosefo “Sef” Puliuvea believes the pandemic cannot stop our duty to pay our respects.  

“The restrictions don’t prevent the respect and need we have to honour the fallen and our current serving members who are right now serving overseas while we are standing here with freedom,” he said.  

“I see it as a service for the nation for the country that gave us all those freedoms.”

Sef is a first-generation migrant from Tonga who has been deployed to East Timor twice, the Solomon Islands and up north as part of Operation Resolute.

He says he is honoured to have served this country.  

“I am happy to have my kids here growing up because it is such a nice country and everyone wants to come here for that very reason and the Anzacs have built that spirit and have made it all safe for us,” he said.   

Novocastrians and Hunter residents have been encouraged to Light Up the Dawn from their driveways, balconies or living rooms to pay their respects in lieu of attending ceremonies.  

“Last year we all stood at the foot of our driveways and candles were lit up and down the street, it was a beautiful thing really,” current Army Reservist Patricia Gordon said.  

“We still have a chance to reconnect with the men and women who stood proudly with us and it’s honouring a generation for futures, past and present.”  

Patricia has been in the Australian Army Reserves for 15 years.

“I am a Sergeant in the medical corps, so I have been on two deployments with Operation Resolute in 2016 and I have also been honoured to be a part of bushfire assist and now I am also on the roll books for Operation Flood Assist,” she said.

The Light Up the Dawn campaign involves standing at the end of your driveway, on your balcony or in your living room, to remember all those who have served and sacrificed.

For Vietnam Veteran Stephen Finney OAMJP, Anzac Day is an important day on the calendar.

“I come from a military family, my grandfather served in the British Army in World War I, my father served in World War II, I served in Vietnam and a lot of people gave a lot including their lives for us to live in this way we are accustomed to now and I think it is very important that those people are not ever forgotten,” he said.  

Stephen served as a National Serviceman from 1969 to 1971 with the Royal Australian Engineers in South Vietnam.

To commemorate the day, the City of Newcastle RSL sub-Branch encourages residents to place a tribute on your local war memorial, listen to the Dawn Service on ABC1233 from 5am and participate in the Light Up the Dawn initiative.

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