Middle East war veterans to be honoured at ceremonies in Penrith and St Marys

Middle East veteran Chris Ghalayini. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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Events will be held in Penrith and St Marys later this week to honour those involved in recent conflicts.

St Marys RSL sub-Branch is holding their inaugural Middle East Area of Operations Commemoration event on Thursday, July 11.

This will mark the first time the sub-Branch has held an event to commemorate this specific theatre of war.

Member of the sub-Branch and Iraq war veteran Chris Ghalayini said the event is an opportunity to remember and reflect on the war efforts from 2001 to 2021.

“This event is really to commemorate and respectively really reflect on why we went over there,” Ghalayini said.

“We’re really reflecting on that time to say ‘Hey, we’ve done it but we are still here and as a network and family we are here to show our support’.”

The event will be held at the St Marys Diggers Club auditorium and will provide an opportunity for those attending to connect, network and reflect.

“At the event we will be having a traditional ceremony as any other military sub-Branch would like to put on for the community,” Ghalayini said.

“There will be a cenotaph with a mount of a small cataflaque party.

“We will have the event MC’d, guest speakers will be announced and then we are having a few reflections, videos and a chance to understand the fallen.”

The event is open to all Middle East veterans as well as all other veterans and their families.

“We’ve got kids activities as well so it is an event that is really community and family based,” Ghalayini said.

For anyone wanting to know more information please visit the sub-Branch website at http://www.stmrslsub.com.au.

Meanwhile, the City of Penrith RSL sub-Branch will be conducting the Inaugural Middle East Area of Operations Commemoration, and are encouraging everyone to come and reflect on the sacrifices of those who served this Thursday, July 11.

Penrith RSL sub-Branch Vice President Anthony Eddie served in Afghanistan with Force Support Unit 2 as a Warrant Officer Class Two in 2010, remembering the war as a unique one which saw thousands of Australians deployed over the span of a decade.

“The challenges of the Middle East were different to any other war we’ve ever been in, through to the technology that our guys have today,” he said.

Anthony Eddie in Afghanistan in 2010.

“In the Middle East, we had the smartest soldiers, sailors and airmen using the most technical equipment ever deployed, in a strangely more dangerous war, where whilst the enemy were scattered, the minefields and the IEDs were everywhere, and you couldn’t tell.”

An Army Veteran and Air Dispatcher who retired in February 2024 after 30 years, Eddie recently instead became more involved with the sub-Branch. When he heard about the idea for the commemoration, championed by RSL NSW across the state, he said he became determined to do something special.

“I was a bit of a driving force to make sure, this year, that we actually did do something significant – a bit more than a coffee and a chat,” he said.

The service, which will be held on Thursday, July 11, marking the date that ADF troops were withdrawn in 2021, will be similar to an ANZAC service, but instead beginning at 5pm at Memory Park.

In this, Eddie hopes to acknowledge everyone involved in these conflicts, including the families who have provided support both during and in the aftermath.

– Additional reporting by Emily Chate

Cassidy Pearce

Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.

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