The memorial commemorating the names of soldiers from Oruzgan Province killed in action against our Islamist enemy
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
This is a difficult issue and there's no clear answer to make everyone happy.
We've shared Camp Holland in Oruzgan Province with troops from several other nations. The US, The Netherlands and France have lost men killed in action in Oruzgan and their names are commemorated on the same memorial as the names of our war dead.
In all 114 names appear on the concrete wall in military stencil style writing - 40 of those are Australian men killed in action.
The agreement between the forces from the US, Holland, France and Australia is that the wall be broken up and buried to save it from descecration by our Islamist enemies after we leave in December. No proposal for repatriation for safekeeping to a country with skin in the game was considered and none was put forward by Australia.
I know that a bit of media commentary on the issue was generated earlier this week when Ian McPhedran of News Limited filed this story from the base in Afghanistan.
I've not had anything to contribute to the issue until today so I've left it to the people directly affected.
Today I've received a few notes pointing out that many diggers feel strongly about the issue and are looking to Australia's brass to take the lead by producing a plan for the repatriation of the memorial wall to Australia. I'm told the Australian War Memorial has promised it would take responsibility for the installation and care of the memorial here.
There are a couple of points that are important to me in talking about the petition I've been asked to promote. The first is that young blokes who have served kicked the petition off - but you should know who they are and this website will give you some insight http://www.youngdiggers.com.au/
It's hosted by Change.org and that organisation makes money from hosting petitions, you might find yourself on a Change.org list.
The wording of the petition is very direct in dropping the complex ball into the lap of the ADF command with a request that the ADF "save" the memorial.
ADF, Australian Defence Force
There's not much by way of how that might best be achieved, given that the interests of other nations are so inextricably involved.
Here's the link which should take you to the site that hosts the petition.
Only those who went with mates to serve together can know what that wall means. One day you're on a plane talking about plans for when you get home and then the stencil kit and paint comes out and a bloke's name is on the wall.
For those who have knelt, sat, contemplated, felt survivor guilt, missed their mate or simply stood unable to gather any coherence to complex thoughts in front of the wall, may I say thank you for your service and may your mates Rest in Peace.
When I heard that the memorial wall in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan, honouring the 40 Australian soldiers who’ve given their lives during our longest war is going to be painted over, then demolished and buried, I was gutted. And I know other diggers are too. We can’t let it happen.
For those who have served in Afghanistan, and their families, it is not just a monument - it is their mates and fellow soldiers, their children and their parents. And if it’s not brought home, the families of the fallen will never get to see the memorial honouring their deaths. We can't let this happen, like it did in Iraq.
In 2008 I was deployed to Iraq in the final surge. A deployment like that takes a toll, the conditions are tough. But one of the things we held dear was the “cav bar” - a place that had the names of all the cavalry and 2/14th LHR troops on the walls and specially made plaques honouring them -- it was an important part of our history. So much so, that we were promised it would be brought back to Australia.
It was something that I would have been able to take my family, and especially my son, to see in years to come. But that can never happen now. Before we had that chance, the cav bar was bulldozed.
That’s how I know a big public campaign is important, if we don’t make it clear how important this is, we won’t be able to save it.
This memorial wall in Afghanistan is even more important because it lists the names of all who have fallen. To not bring this home is, I believe, something that we just can’t let happen. There is a reason we have memorials like this, it’s so we honour, and never forget, those who never made it home alive. I’ve already seen in the media that this matters to the families of those on that wall, and that the War Memorial Council wants it brought back too. Let’s save it.
It’s the same memorial that the Prime Minister laid a wreath at when he declared the war in Afghanistan was over earlier this week. On behalf of Young Diggers, who know how important this is, please sign this petition to save the Memorial Wall that honours our diggers, and have it come home with the troops before the end of the year.