Contemporary war veterans should not be forgotten this ANZAC Day

Chris Ghalayini, an Iraq war veteran encourages veterans to join their local Sub-branches. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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A contemporary war veteran is encouraging others to find a community in their local Sub-branches.

Chris Ghalayini served for 13 years in the Australian Army and spent time on deployment in Iraq, which at the time was an active warzone.

After Ghalayini’s military career ended his job connected him with a community of like minded people at the St Marys RSL Sub-branch.

“We got to talking and we got connected, and then I signed up,” Ghalayini said.

“So, it was more to support the St Marys RSL Sub-branch in what they are trying to achieve because a lot of people are starting to forget and lose that bond where when you get out of the Defence [Force], ultimately you lose that sense of identity.

“The St Marys RSL Sub-branch has that real community bond where it keeps that identity [of the Defence Force] but you have left.”

Ghalayini highly encourages anyone who has left the Defence Force and feels a loss of community to connect with their local Sub-branches.

Chris Ghalayini in Iraq.

“I think more younger, contemporary veterans need to really jump on board wherever they can to be community based [and] orientated,” Ghalayini said.

“The St Marys RSL Sub-branch is something where we would like to create a contemporary soldiers welfare space where we can get the community to come together.

“I would strongly encourage young, contemporary veterans who are getting out to sign up because everybody counts.”

Ghalayini said part of his job was to assist in screening people who had worked as interpreters to give them Australian citizenship in a joint effort with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

“They had to screen a few families and it was very strict… we had to work with a really small team to work out who were the chosen ones,” Ghalayini said.

“It was such a sensitive process just because they were only allowed to bring their immediate family, they weren’t allowed to bring their mums and dads and brothers and sisters.

Chris Ghalayini chatting with journalist Emily Chate. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“So, it was very hard to see them [to] give them that news, and say ‘Hey you’re coming, you’re granted a visa but the rest of your family have to remain behind’.”

After Ghalayini returned from Iraq he moved on to different roles in the Army before medically retiring, but Ghalayini reflects fondly on his time as a serving member of the Australian Defence Force.

“With life you have always got to reflect, and that’s a bit of my learning curve,” Ghalayini said.

“You look back at your milestone and what you have achieved, you learn from what you have done before and how you can better it and how you can better yourself everyday.”

The St Marys RSL Sub-branch can be contacted on 9623 6555.

Emily Chate

Emily Chate joined The Western Weekender in 2024, and covers local news - primarily courts and politics. A graduate of the University of Wollongong, Emily has contributed to The Daily Telegraph and worked as a freelance journalist.

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