On the morning of 25 April 2020, I will be engaging in my annual Anzac Day ritual of rising at 4.30am (or 0430hrs in military time), squeezing into my increasingly snug dress uniform (thanks COVID-five kilos) and waking my family for a traditional ‘gunfire’ breakfast.
This year, instead of driving to a small country town cenotaph to lay a wreath and march with other veterans, our commemoration will occur at the end of our driveway. Our entire Indooroopilly street intends to join the commemoration from our driveways, while a talented neighbour plays The Last Post.
My family is extraordinarily grateful for this show of support and appreciation.
This Anzac Day is going to be extremely difficult for many Australian and New Zealand veterans, especially those struggling with feelings of social isolation and feeling disconnected – long before the term 'COVID-19' swept into the national consciousness.
For veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and no longer serving in the military, Anzac Day is the one day each year when their service is acknowledged in a real and tangible way. It provides an opportunity to meet and connect with other veterans –usually over rum and games of two-up – and to speak about shared experiences of serving their country in a combat zone or other fraught-security environment.
It is a day when multiple generations, from many different wars, come together in mutual respect and support.
Group Captain Dee Gibbon OAM CSC (back row, second from left) on her arrival back to Australia, after being deployed to Afghanistan from August 2015 to May 2016.
Group Captain Dee Gibbon OAM CSC (back row, centre) on her arrival back to Australia, after being deployed to Afghanistan from August 2015 to May 2016.
For veterans struggling with mental health issues and feelings of disconnectedness, the goodwill and overt public support experienced each Anzac Day can be enough to keep the PTSD demons at bay for another year. Even in social isolation, there are many ways to let Australian and New Zealand veterans know that you appreciate their service. The Driveway at Dawn concept is a wonderful idea and, if your neighbourhood is devoid of a talented bugler, Driveway at Dawn apps can support your commemorative activities.
The Australian War Memorial will be live-streaming the National Dawn Service (search social media for #ANZACathome), with media coverage provided by the ABC. Another way to show your support is to donate your time, talents or funds to one of the many reputable veteran organisations listed on the Department of Veterans' Affairs site or to the Anzac Appeal.
Group Captain Dee Gibbon OAM CSC (centre) with Australian Defence Force colleagues during her deployment to Afghanistan in 2015, standing in front of the mountains of Kabul.
For those experiencing the ‘joys’ of home-schooling, perhaps consider adding a viewing of the classic Australian movie Gallipoli to your daily curriculum, followed by crafting a message of support to our troops currently serving overseas.
For those who personally know a veteran, please take time this Anzac Day to pick up the telephone (yes, the actual telephone), thank them for their service, and ask the question: are you okay? The price of service is extremely high for some and this simple gesture may literally save lives.
To the many military or ex-military staff and students working or studying at UQ –thank you for your service, and let’s hope we can commemorate next year in a non-virtual form.
Dr Dee Gibbon OAM CSC is UQ’s Associate Director of Workplace Diversity and Inclusion, and Royal Australian Air Force Group Captain.