Mat Jones of BAE Systems Australia reflects on his time in service, what Remembrance Day means to him now and how we seek to serve those who served us
At 11am on 11 November 1918 the guns on the Western Front fell silent. For more than four years, the ‘war to end all wars’ had raged. By its end somewhere between nine and 13 million people had died – 62,000 of them were Australian.
When I think about these numbers I am staggered by the magnitude of the suffering and the sacrifice. More young Australians died on faraway battlefields than were able to cram in to Optus Stadium for this year’s AFL Grand Final.
The crowd on that balmy night in Perth was described by commentators as a sea of faces and it devastates me to think that even more young Australian faces left our shores for their life’s great adventure never to return. Families were left without fathers, mothers lost their sons, in many cases more than one, and for a great number of those who did return they would be never the same again.
A sacrifice remembered
Unfortunately, this was by no means the ‘war to end all wars’. Two decades later, young Australians were returning to battlefields and have continued to serve and sacrifice so much for their country in a range of different conflicts almost ever since. Every Remembrance Day, I take time to put a human face to this sacrifice because I want the extraordinary efforts of the young Australian men and women to always mean something.
I think of Private Jim Martin who died at Gallipoli from Typhoid at age 14. A young boy with so much life still to live who should have been at home being cared for by his loving parents Charles and Amelia but instead died scared and alone.
I think of Second Lieutenant Gordon Sharp, a television cameraman, who was called up as part of the first national service ballot and soon found himself in command of 11 Platoon, Delta Company, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. In the midst of heavy fire in the Long Tan rubber plantation, Gordon bravely raised himself up to get a better tactical view of the enemy when he was shot and killed. A 21 year old man cut down in his prime while putting the needs of his men above his own safety.
I also think of my own time in the Australian Army and those that I had the pleasure to serve with. I will always carry the ramp ceremonies with me where I stood and watched young Australians being honoured by their mates as they began their final journeys back to their devastated families. I remember the tears but I also remember the sense of pride that arose when each final heroic act was recounted. More often than not, those that fell put their mates above themselves.
Unfortunately, many Australians are continuing to make sacrifices for our country long after they returned home from their battlefields. Many continue to fight their own wars to live healthy and happy lives as they grapple with their own mental health issues every day. Some struggle with Post Traumatic Stress disorder while others suffer from anxiety and depression. Some continue to play out the horrors of war but some suffer from a loss of identity, community and purpose when the inevitable time comes to take their uniform off.
The ethos of putting your country and your mates above yourself, still exists amongst the hundreds of veterans that I am lucky enough to call friends and colleagues at BAE Systems Australia.
We are all fortunate to work for a company that knows the types of skills, attributes and character traits that those that have served bring to our business and it was wonderful that BAE Systems was recently recognised as our Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Large Employer of the Year.
We know there is still more work to be done to create more opportunities for veterans and their families to join and thrive within our business but we are up for it. The commitment is serious and will endure.
As a nation, we owe it to the memories of those that are no longer with us and to the futures of those that are; to pay our respect this Remembrance Day. We will come together on the 11th of November to remember those who died and to honour those that continue to serve our Nation each and every day.
Lest we forget.
About the author
Mat Jones is a Senior Business Development Manager and Chair of the Veterans Advisory Committee at BAE Systems Australia
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