Keeping the faith – always
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.