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Army Birthday address

Chief of Army speaking at the Army Birthday Commemorative Service

Address by the Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO at the Army Birthday Commemorative Service, 1 March 2013.

Download the speech.

Sergeant Blaine Diddams 2 July 2012
Sapper James Martin 29 August 2012
Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic 29 August 2012
Private Robert Poate 29 August 2012
Private Nathaniel Galagher 30 August 2012
Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald 30 August 2012
Corporal Scott Smith 21 October 2012

These names, soldiers who have died on active service since our last Army Birthday, before all others. They are remembered because without remembrance we, the living, the recipients of their legacy, could not otherwise hold true to the Army values that bind us together.

Senator David Feeny, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator Ian MacDonald, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshall Mark Binskin, Director of The Australian War Memorial Dr. Brendan Nelson; Representatives of our Allied Forces, our sister Services, Soldiers of the Australian Army, civilian members of the Army Group, family and friends it is wonderful that you can join us this morning.

This Memorial occupies a special place in the heart of the Australian Nation and its Army. Its resonance is deep in the national psyche. It commemorates the sacrifice of Australians of all services, in all wars, since the inception of the Australian Nation. It is a hallowed and unifying symbol of our Country.

So too is our Army, which came into existence on this day one hundred and twelve years ago. Today we observe that anniversary.

I chose that expression carefully. It seems somewhat discordant to talk of celebrating a birthday in so solemn a setting. With an Army at war.

That is not to say that we do not have much to celebrate. But in this place, with many of our comrades still in the field against an implacable and dangerous enemy, I prefer to mark this occasion with sombre reflection.

Look around you. On these walls are the names of more than one hundred thousand Australians who have died in the service of their country; individual names of every ethnic and social background, Australians all. Just as this is not a mere birthday, nor do those names comprise a mere list.

In totality it is one of the most noble and inspiring stories of our Nation. It is a story of unselfish sacrifice, of love of family, friends, mates and country; of successive generations of Australian who have willingly gone to farthest corners of the globe to preserve the values and interests of this country, in concert with our Allies.

In my time as your Chief, it has been my privilege to stand on the ridge at Isurava with four veterans of the battles of 1942, in the midst of what that fine soldier, Ralph Honner, once referred to as “Australia’s Thermopylae.”

I have stood among returned servicemen, in their twilight years, at El Alamien in the sands of the Middle East. And, of course, I have been along side our troops in Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands, and Afghanistan.

It is inevitable to ask one self “Why did they come here?” Why have young Australian men and women, fought and sacrificed in distant lands, far from Australia’s shores. The answer, it seems to me, is straightforward.

Our Army serves in response to the will of the people, expressed through the democratically elected government of the day to defend our Nation, our values and our interests.

For over a century it has been thus, and as you can see from these walls it has required a telling price.

Some of you will have kin named on these walls. Many of you will know the more recent names from Afghanistan as mates. All of you are custodians of the legacy they have bequeathed.

All of us who wear the Rising Sun Badge have an obligation to live up to the powerful title ‘An Australian Soldier’. Almost no other title in our national lexicon is so laden with meaning. We can be proud that we have earned that title through our soldiers’ bravery, professionalism and devotion to duty, and to one another.

As the Chief of the Army I am immensely proud of our history and I am immensely proud of you.

And on this special occasion I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to two groups of people. The first is to the families of our men and women in uniform. Without the commitment and endurance of partners and children, the Army would not be able to operate in the way that we do. You help make the Army a true family, rather than just a band of brothers and sisters.

The second group is more diverse, made up of soldiers who served in the wake of our last long war, Vietnem. We have met many challenges over the past one hundred and twelve years. We are now entering a period replete with new challenges. Resources are less plentiful than at any time since the Timor crisis in 1999. Our operational tempo seems likely to slow as we draw down force levels in Afghanistan.

Soldiering in times of financial stringency, when the thrill of operations has worn off, demands every ounce of our professionalism and dedication. Commitment to standards, when it seems to be for no discernible operational reason, is what separates the professional from the thrill seeker and the mercenary.

Those I served with when I first joined, kept their devotion to the Army, and the Nation, in the face of shrinking numbers, shrinking budgets and minimal opportunities for overseas service. They ensured the flames of professionalism, and our warrior ethos, stayed burning. They kept the faith and I want to mark their part in our history today.

In conclusion, let us pause to remember all those who died in all our wars wearing that same slouch hat and rising sun badge that we wear today. On this Army Birthday let us not forget them, nor forget who we are. Good soldiering!