Welcome Home Parade for 2nd Cavalry Regiment Task Group and Combined Team - Uruzgan Four and Five
Prime Minister, Members of the 2 Cavalry Regiment Battle Group, friends, loved ones ladies and gentlemen welcome to this event.
This is a very special day in the history of the Australian Army. It is a day both for celebration, yet also for somber reflection, for celebration of duty performed well and the joy of reunion with loved ones; but also for recollection of friends wounded and maimed, and also of precious time, that could have been spent in peaceful pursuits, sacrificed amid violent and chaotic events. Such is the lot of the professional soldier.
Today you return from active service. Your safe return, with your duty performed with professionalism and honour, should be a source of pride not only to you and your families, but also to our nation at large. That is a cause for great celebration.
So too is the fact that today is the official birthday of the Australian Army. Around the nation your mates, your brothers and sisters in arms, are pausing to reflect on what it means to be an Australian soldier, on the unique nature of the profession of arms which sets us apart for those who devote their lives to the path of ease, comfort affluence, prestige and fame.
A wise man once wrote that people in free societies sleep safe in their beds at night because rough men stand vigil in the darkness to visit violence on those would do us harm. You have now joined the ranks of those men and women, who have stood that lonely vigil against our foes since 1901. You are now part of the great narrative of the Australian soldier and service to the nation.
Our Army is widely revered in the Australian nation. That fills me with pride and you are entitled to feel the same way also. However, do not let it give you a false sense of self-importance. Rather, it should inspire even greater humility in you and a desire to prove that you are worthy of the trust and respect of every Australian.
Never let you behaviour fall below the highest standard expected of you by a grateful nation. You owe it to yourselves and the many who have gone before you.
In so doing, you have added you own distinctive chapter to the legend of the ANZACs. You have joined that long, loping column stretching back in memory’s eye through the mist of time, of those who have worn the slouch hat and Rising Sun badge abroad in the service of their country.
Be proud of that. Know that you are now members of a very select group of Australians-returned service men and women. As long as you live no one can take that proud label from you.
And never let any one tell you that you did not make a difference in Afghanistan nor that your service meant less than veterans from the Great Wars that fire the imagination of our nation. Duty faithfully executed with integrity to defend the vulnerable is always noble- always! Moreover the presence here today of the Prime Minister of Australia makes clear that the Government which sent you to war stands firmly behind the decisions which committed the Army to this war. Our cause was legitimate.
Of course, that is not to glorify war or to glamorize what you seen and done. In a perfect world young men and women should not see and experience the things that you have seen at your tender age. Some of you have suffered bodily wounds. All of you have seen things that your service has spared the rest of your fellow citizens from seeing.
Take care of one another now that you are home just as you did on operations. It is natural that you may feel delayed trauma from your service. Reach out for help if you need it. And if you see a mate struggling, reach out to help him or her, just as you would if he or she was hurt on the battlefield.
I do not wish to detain you in the heat today or to keep you away from your families any longer than I must. But in closing, let me make two final points.
I want to thank your families and loved ones for their service to the country too. To wives and kids, parents and friends the absence of a soldier overseas imposes all kinds of pressures and nerve-wracking strain. While the soldiers are revered in public, only the extended Army family knows what you go through in supporting your family member on operations. We could not function as an Army without your unique brand of courage and resilience. Thank you.
Finally to those on parade today, you are the last formed body of Australian soldiers to return from a combat role in our longest war. Such closure, on the 113th birthday of our Army, is especially poignant. For that reason we must pause to reflect on the losses of our brothers who have not returned both from Afghanistan and also from every one of our wars as a nation.
Lest We Forget.