Keep­ing the faith – al­ways

The Sunday Times - - OPINION -

IT was grat­i­fy­ing to see so many West Aus­tralians, young and old, wear­ing their pop­pies with pride yes­ter­day. The sym­bol of re­mem­brance was in­spired by the World War I poem In Flan­ders Fields. It was writ­ten from the point of view of the dead, who “shall not sleep” if we break faith with them.

Paus­ing on Re­mem­brance Day, as we also do each Anzac Day, to re­mem­ber our war dead and con­tem­plate the hor­rors they en­dured, is the very least we can do to keep faith with them.

There is no po­lit­i­cal state­ment in wear­ing a poppy or fall­ing silent for a minute. It is not an en­dorse­ment of war or com­bat. Far from it — we re­mem­ber the cost of peace and that we should never take peace for granted. In the vivid retelling of ac­counts from the bat­tle­field we get to imag­ine how truly aw­ful war is and how we should do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to avoid it.

Re­mem­brance Day next year will mark 100 years since the guns fell silent on a war that many to­day re­gard as homi­ci­dal folly.

World War I was an abom­i­na­tion for all na­tions caught up in the slaugh­ter. For this young coun­try, with a pop­u­la­tion of fewer than five mil­lion, the cost was un­bear­ably steep, leav­ing few fam­i­lies un­touched. Of all the wretched years, 1917 re­mains the most blood-soaked in our his­tory. We lost more than 21,000 Aus­tralians — one-third of all our war dead from that con­flict.

Among them were three brothers all killed on the first day of fight­ing at Pass­chen­daele. There were 38,000 Aus­tralian ca­su­al­ties over three months of car­nage in that se­ries of bat­tles.

The War to End All Wars did no such thing. We still live in dan­ger­ous times and many of us worry about get­ting em­broiled in an­other global war. There are many po­ten­tial trig­gers, in­clud­ing North Korea or Rus­sia’s in­creas­ing med­dling and malev­o­lence on the world stage.

Since 2001, we have been en­gaged in a war against an ide­o­log­i­cal foe, not a na­tion.

Though Is­lamic State looms largest, al-Qaida still ex­ists and other Is­lamist groups are ac­tive across the north­ern half of Africa. Al-Shabab and Boko Haram have in­flicted mis­ery wher­ever their evil ten­ta­cles have spread. The war on ter­ror has seen our troops sent to parts of the Mid­dle East, where they still are to­day, help­ing the Iraqi army de­feat IS.

There have been mis­takes along the way, but they were the mis­takes of politi­cians. Our ser­vice­men and women are put in perilous sit­u­a­tions and they per­form their duty, re­gard­less of the risk to life and limb. They de­serve our full sup­port and re­sound­ing grat­i­tude.

Yes­ter­day, we hon­oured our war dead and veter­ans from all wars. The spirit of our older veter­ans still shines bright. Old Dig­gers such as JJ Wade, one of our last sur­viv­ing World War II veter­ans, re­main an in­spi­ra­tion. The Wat­tleup res­i­dent and for­mer “Rat of To­bruk”, who turns 100 in a few days, has lost none of his charm or feisti­ness. His gen­er­a­tion has at­tributes all young Aus­tralians should as­pire to.

He fought for peace and a bet­ter world. He made it home while many of his mates didn’t. “Sur­viv­ing a war is like lotto. You buy a lotto ticket and hope for the best,” Mr Wade said.

For those who didn’t make it it back, we do not to break faith with them. Re­spon­si­bil­ity for ed­i­to­rial com­ment is taken by the ed­i­tor, Michael Beach, 50 Hasler Road, Os­borne Park, WA 6017. Postal ad­dress: PO Box 1769, Os­borne Park DC, WA 6916.

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