Chance to reflect and remember

Brian Cartwright. Photo: Melinda Jane

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, Penrith will join Australia to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in war.

Vice President of Penrith RSL sub-Branch Brian Cartwright said the significance of the 99th Remembrance Day this Saturday, November 11 is heightened as the Centenary of Armistice approaches.

“It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, yet here we are still with conflict in the Middle East, in Syria and Afghanistan,” he said.

“We’re still deploying troops, they’re away from their families and we still have people sacrificing for this country today.

“I think it’s important to remember the ones who are still serving and still sacrificing 100 years later.”

Having served in the Royal Australian Air Force himself, Mr Cartwright has seen the challenges of veterans evolve through different conflicts over the years.

“The challenges are getting tougher and tougher,” he said.

“We’re deploying more and more troops overseas, and they’re facing unique challenges that the Vietnam guys didn’t see, that the Korean guys didn’t see.”

While help exists in a myriad of welfare and charity organisations, they also bring their own complications.

“There are so many ex-service organisations that have sprung up over the years,” he said.

“RSL started 101 years ago in June 1916, and over the years, every conflict, veterans have come back with different challenges and different sets of issues.

“I think they felt that the RSL weren’t necessarily equipped to deal with those challenges so they’ve gone off on their own. There’s well over 100 ex-services organisations.

“It’s great that people have somewhere to go and get support, but I think at the same time it has a negative effect where you are splitting your resources.”

Mr Cartwright believes that even though the Government has increased funding for returned service men and women, many still don’t ask for help, fearing it to be a sign of weakness. Adjusting from defence life to civilian life is another huge challenge as the impact that seemingly mundane tasks, like knowing what clothes to wear to work or how to fit into your family’s routines, have on veterans are often are overlooked.

“We want to help them transition into civilian life which is a big challenge for a lot of them,” Mr Cartwright said.

“You sign up when you’re a kid, 16 as an apprentice in some instances. You’re 18-years-old, you do 20 years of service. The first day you walk down ‘Civilian Street’ you’re almost 40-years-old.”

As we approach Remembrance Day, he reflects on the impact a combat zone can have on individuals.

“When you eat, sleep and live with these people 24/7, especially if you’ve been deployed to a combat zone, your life depends on the guy next to you,” he said.

“Given the fact that you don’t know who the enemy is in a lot of instances, it drives anxiety and stress that manifest into things like PTSD.

“All we can hope to do as a welfare organisation is try our best to support them when they come back.”

With the largest sub-Branch membership in NSW, Mr Cartwright has a challenge ahead of him as he tries to encourage younger veterans to join the sub-Branch for support, friendship and assistance. By reaching out, they will see that they are not alone, and their challenges deserve help.

Tomorrow a traditional service will be held at Memory Park at 10.30am.

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is the Weekender’s police and political reporter. Emily is also the Weekender’s Senior Journalist.