A SYMBOL of the importance and acceptance of young service personnel, a new monument was unveiled yesterday.
The Post 1973 Memorial is dedicated to Australian Defence Force personnel who have served since that year and now sits alongside the war memorials in Railway Park.
It was revealed and dedicated in a ceremony that attracted well over 100 people – young veterans, their family members and friends, special guests and older veterans supporting their younger comrades.
Tamworth Young Veterans deputy chairman David Howells said it was “all about empowering younger veterans and for them to ... be proud of their service”.
“These people signed on the dotted line prepared to put their lives on the line for their country,” he said.
The memorial ceremony was part of a big day in Tamworth for veterans, with the local RSL Sub-branch reaching 100 years, receiving the honour of freedom of entry to the city, and its president Bob Chapman being made a life member of the RSL of Australia.
The structure recognises those who, since 1973, have served in conflicts, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid efforts, and the protection of Australian assets and interests at home and overseas.
It was unveiled by Breeanna Till and Victoria Hopkins, the widows of the late Sergeant Brett Till, 31, and the late Corporal Mathew Hopkins, 21, who were both killed in action in Afghanistan.
‘One part of our healing’
President Rebecca Linich has said it would provide “a sense of accomplishment and a sense of acceptance from the community, that we do matter”.
She told The Leader today she felt the well-attended event showed that Tamworth Young Veterans was connecting well with the local community.
Not one to rest on her laurels, she said the group was already thinking about the future.
“We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and now we have to look forward and continue with the community engagement, and supporting each other but looking at better ways of doing this.
“Yes, we’ve come this far ... but we’ve always got to look after our young veterans.
“This was one part of our healing, now we’ve got to move forward with the other part.
Symbolism and stages
A rounded sandstone wall encircles a world map of polished concrete, showing the 40-plus locations to which the ADF has been deployed in modern times.
Mr Howells said the memorial’s shape and colour were symbolic.
“The wall is the colour of sand and represents our nation’s shores,” he said.
“The wall itself is round to represent our nation’s arms outstretched and wrapping the world map, as a sign of embracing the world we live in and the way we care for the needy and the oppressed.”
The unveiling of the memorial’s dedication plaque is is stage one; later work will see logos applied representing the army, navy and air force.
The wall will also feature the names of all the locations in which Australians have served since 1973, which stands at about 43.
Mr Howell said the memorial was not one that commemorated one individual, group or particular event, but was “very inclusive” and a place that encouraged reflection on sacrifice and commitment.
“It’s not about a single person, a single conflict or a single period in history,” he said.
“If ex-service people are travelling through Tamworth, they can go and meet there and remember and contemplate their service, tell their stories …
“Over a period of time others will hold the wall and perhaps tell their story and leave it there.”
‘Your service does matter’
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, who is also member of Tamworth Young Veterans, said it was a way of telling young veterans that “your service does matter”.
He served in the mid-’80s as a signals operator in communications in the air force.
“I was deployed on peacekeeping operations, but it wasn’t carrying a weapon and being on the front line,” Mr Anderson said.
“A lot of us in those roles – as important as they were – we sort of thought, ‘Oh well, we’re not really vets’.
“It’s not clear-cut, put it that way [but] I hope, ultimately, this young vet movement can bring people out ...
“They’re starting to turn up and come out of those dark spaces that some people have been in.”