GOVERNOR HIEU VAN LE
THE gardens on North Tce flanking Government House have been transformed into a sea of tiny white crosses. They are powerful memorials.
They have stood sentinel since the beginning of November as a tribute to those valiant servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. This year, the Field of Remembrance is even more poignant as we mark the Centenary of the Armistice which brought the “war to end all wars” to its end.
Every day as I pass by, I think deeply of the freedoms our servicemen and women risked their lives to protect for our nation. The crosses each have a name and many will be decked with a red poppy. They link us to Gardens of Remembrance and memorials around the world. They are a link to the men and women who lie in graves or rest forever in the seas.
We also remember those whose resting places in foreign fields are sadly unknown. Their sacrifices are honoured and deeply respected. Let us also not forget those who nursed the sick and wounded and comforted those who were destined to never return home.
Today, World War I remains the costliest conflict in terms of deaths and casualties that Australia has experienced. About 34,900 South Australians enlisted in World War I, representing 8.5 per cent of the state’s population and more than 35 per cent of the male population aged 18 to 44.
A young, energetic band of brothers were proud of their uniform, proud to enlist and proud to serve. More than 5500 South Australians died in the war. A sense of duty and honour was at the heart of their service. Compassion connected them with those on foreign fields they didn’t know but were committed to defending, as they, too, were people with hopes and dreams.
The values forged on those battlefields resonate with us today – team spirit, the mateship of looking out for others, integrity, the courage to live up to challenges before us, and tenacity to see them through. We know, though, that the human cost of war is not only the fallen: it is a cost that is levied on all servicemen and women, on their families and on their communities.
On Remembrance Day, we also honour those who sustained efforts on the home front by keeping the country and its citizens functioning in times of adversity.
We live in peace and freedom today because of all of them.
I was privileged to meet on several occasions Bill Corey, a true gentleman from World War II. Bill was a valiant Rat of Tobruk who fought in El Alamein, New Guinea and in Borneo. I wished him well on his 100th birthday and sadly, I recently joined others to pay tribute to him at a funeral service to celebrate his life.
His legacy of service, courage and sense of community will endure. Through his poignant words to thousands of school children and others, he enabled people to value, respect and understand the vital contribution all servicemen and women make to our country.
His is but one story of service, heroism and courage.
On Remembrance Day, my wife Lan and I will place a cross in the Field of Remembrance and lay a wreath at the National War Memorial on North Terrace.
It is a privilege to do so. I cherish a deep and real personal gratitude to all Australian service personnel who served in many conflicts around the world and continue to do so in active war zones and in peacekeeping and humanitarian roles.
My own thoughts are indelibly coloured by having grown up during the Vietnam War, and witnessing its horrific destruction and brutality. But I also experienced first-hand the gallantry and sacrifice of those brave soldiers who risked their lives to save us and defend our freedoms, democracy and our way of life. And this is why I have carried with me – throughout my life – an unresolved debt. A debt of gratitude.
On this solemn day, let us commemorate the past, but also honour those servicemen and women who are continuing the tradition that protects us all. Lest we forget.