Letter to the editor: What we do after that minute

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, most Australians will have taken a minute’s silence to commemorate those who have died or suffered in war.

But it is what we all do after that minute finishes that defines us and truly honours those who have died in service to the nation.

The veterans who returned from the First World War did so to a community that understood their sacrifices.

Whilst community awareness of young veterans’ service has improved, there is still some way to go.

Too many of our young veterans feel alienated from the country and community they served; a feeling that compounds existing trauma and injury.

These were feelings all too pronounced for those that served in the Vietnam War. The tragic rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), social isolation, intergenerational trauma and suicide experienced by Vietnam veterans is directly correlated to our rejection of them.

Our treatment of Vietnam veterans must serve as a stark reminder of the importance of community support and our acceptance of veterans and their families.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Australian peacekeeping efforts; service that is often as challenging and traumatic as war. Our understanding of service must evolve to reflect the full scope of national security service in the 21st century if we are to honour the true purpose of Remembrance Day.

Commemoration has to be more than just ceremony. Its real value is in a renewed commitment to enduring values.

True Remembrance constitutes two minutes: the first minute for quiet reverence and contemplation; the second is for you to decide how you will support our younger veterans and their families who walk amongst us.

What will you do? Whatever you decide, committing to educate yourself on who these younger veterans are and what they have done will make a significant difference.

Veterans themselves can do better in our support of each other. Take a minute to commit to calling some veteran mates and check-in.

And don’t just check on those you served with, check-in on yourself. As a group, we have internalised negative stereotypes about seeking help which, for some of our mates, is leading to irreversible tragedy.

In asking for help, veterans can ensure they can have good social networks, meaningful employment, positive relationships, better physical health and better mental health. Repressing issues benefit no one and leads to more harm.

Towards the end of the Centenary of Anzac we have an opportunity to deepen the connection between the Australian community and our modern veterans.

Putting aside the myths, we can start to understand the people who serve and secure their passage back into the Australian community, while empowering their futures.

John Bale, CEO and co-founder of Soldier On