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Honouring our veterans this ANZAC Day

08:30am April 23 2024

The Waiting Woman bronze sculpture at Geraldton, WA honours the 645 crew members of the HMAS Sydney who lost their lives in a sea battle in 1941. (Getty)

As a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force, I am often asked how I feel on ANZAC Day. 

It’s always a mixed bag of emotions: compassion, pride, vulnerability, and more recently “Mum-pride” as my daughter embarks on her own career in the Australian Army. 

Overwhelmingly though, there is sadness remembering my loved ones who can no longer stand beside me, and profound gratitude to those who currently serve and have served before me. 

I’m reminded of my visit to the HMAS Sydney memorial in Geraldton, WA.  In November 1941, 645 crew perished when HMAS Sydney was lost off the coast of Carnarvon. 

There is a statue of a woman standing on the headland looking out to sea, her face lovingly and heartbreakingly hoping that a speck will appear on the horizon with her husband returning home.

What struck me most was how worn the bronze was on her hand by her side.  It is smooth and shiny from all the visitors who, like me, could not help but reach out and hold it for just a moment - a beautiful, unexpected symbol of compassion. 

So as we head into ANZAC Day this year, I want to share my insight on two of the common questions I get asked.

The first one: “What’s the right thing to say to current/ex service men and women?”

More than once I’ve been wished a “Happy ANZAC Day,” which whilst well-intentioned, is not appropriate given the sombreness of the day. A simple “thank you for your service” or “thank you” is a lovely gesture.

Medals are the other topic many often have questions about.

Not everyone who has served has a medal/s, and for deeply personal reasons, not everyone chooses to wear theirs.

If someone is wearing a medal/s on their left breast it means they earned it, and if worn on their right then that means a deceased ancestor earned it. Many in our community have both which is an incredible testament to their family’s service. 

You’d also be surprised at how often I’m asked if I am wearing my own service medal for my grandfather, father or husband. 

Finally, many feel very strong emotions on this day, and we need compassion and to look after each other. 

Please reach out to veterans and service men and women in your community and check in with them, have a chat, express your gratitude, and maybe even offer to share a drink.

We also send our gratitude to all first responders and their loved ones, particularly given the recent tragic events at Bondi Junction.

To everyone who currently has or has had loved ones serve in the military, I say “thank you” for your love and support.  

To all of my colleagues who have served, and to all our incredible reservists who continue to serve, I say, “thank you for your service.” 

“Lest we forget.”

Angela Green is Head of Operational and Enterprise Risk at Westpac. She has worked in the banking and finance industry for almost three decades and prior to joining Westpac was the Chief Risk Officer of Tyro Payments. Early in her career, Angela spent eight years as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, and is current Chair of the Westpac Military & Mates Employee Advocacy Group.

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