This Anzac Day, the Busselton RSL Sub Branch will promote the ‘By the left’ campaign to encourage all women and younger veterans to march en masse in Busselton no matter where they served.
The campaign aims to raise awareness about the contribution women and younger veterans have made to the Australian Defence Force.
The Busselton branch hope to broaden the identity of veterans who have returned from service to current and ex-serving members of the ADF.
Here are there stories:
Veteran Kyron Kraehe joined the Army in 1998 when he was 17 years old and served 27 years in infantry including three operational tours in East Timor and one in Iraq.
Mr Kraehe was 28 when he travelled to East Timor for the first time and said it was “pretty scary” from the moment they arrived.
He was a section commander in a rifle company in Dili, when they arrived the city was on fire and there were people running everywhere.
“They were just gunning for the lives because the TNI [Indonesian National Military] were chasing them down,” he said.
“It was our job to get between the refugees – or what had become refugees – and the TNI militia so we could save as many people as we could.
“A lot of people had already died unfortunately, but we put ourselves in a position where we could bring them out of the hills where they were hiding.”
Mr Kraehe said even after years of training and preparing for operational tours there was a feeling of not being ready enough when you first arrived.
“You second guess yourself and hope that everything you have done is right, the training was correct and you worry about your blokes, which I did a lot of.
“Once you are on the ground and get settled in, everything falls into place and you find your feet.”
In East Timor, Mr Kraehe said you were faced with danger as soon as you got off the plane and the conflict was right in their faces.
“There were dead people, there were people shooting at people, we were right in it at first but Iraq was a bit different.”
Mr Kraehe said the Americans had been in Iraq and finished the invasion four years prior to his arrival in the war zone.
While it was quite dangerous and bombs were going off, Mr Kraehe said the green zone was a contained and safe area.
“You just had to work your day-to-day stuff and do the best you could.”
In Iraq, Mr Kraehe served as a platoon sargent in a rifle platoon at the Australian Embassy with the other half of his company doing outside patrols.
Mr Kraehe said when he returned home he did not think he had issues from serving abroad but he did, and was fortunate enough to have a partner who also served in the defense force.
“She had been in the system for quite a long time so she knew what to look for and her dad had been a Vietnam veteran, so I was very lucky I had that.
“You do have a few issues and it is a bit of a battle and I had to work through them, sleeping does get you it really does.
“I think you are not human if you cannot feel that quite honestly, you shut it out but it is there it is just the way it goes, you just have to deal with it.
Anzac Day for Mr Kraehe isn’t about him, he still thinks about the servicemen and women from World War I and II, in particular Galipoli.
“if you read some of the stories of what these guys went through, I try to picture myself in that and I can’t to be honest with you.
“I just can’t fathom the fact that so many good Australians, the best people we had in the country would go there and be ordered out of a pit and just be gunned down in the blink of an eye.
“It blows my mind to be honest.”
Yallingup veteran Damian Jones joined the Navy when he was 19, he went on a tour of Iraq for six months as part of a boarding putty team.
He was a marine technician responsible for maintaining the engine room and equipment on a ship which carried around 160 servicemen and women to the Gulf.
When he was stationed in the Persian Gulf, Mr Jones’ ship was fired at by the Iranian Navy.
“Just after we left we were replaced by a British ship, the boarding party were captured by the Iranian Navy and were held captive for a couple of weeks in Iran,” he said.
“You do not really think about that, but when we got back and heard what happened it comes home that you were in a conflict zone right next to Iran.
“We always knew we could be in danger, but it is all just part and parcel of the job, it did not really hit home until it happened just after we left.
“You think wrong time, wrong place, it could have been us.”
For Mr Jones, Anzac Day is all about mateship and returning to Australia after his time abroad with the Navy made Mr Jones appreciate his freedom.
Australian Navy medic Melanie Sorkine served from 2001 until 2007 and was posted in Victoria, Darwin, Christmas Island, Ashmore Reef and Iraq.
During her service, Ms Sorkine worked on Operation Relex which was a border protection operation to help stop illegal immigrants from coming into Australia.
She also worked on HMAS Nowra which was the fleet air-wing of the navy and HMAS Stuart which was posted to Iraq for the international campaign against terror.
“I was actually kind of excited about going to Iraq, I knew a lot of other people who were a bit apprehensive, because you just don’t know what is going to happen,” she said.
“Life in the navy is a bit like that especially when you are at sea, shore stations are different, but if you are at sea you just don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next.
“You have a list of things you are going to do but that all changes at a moments notice especially if there are attacks from other people trying to get us out of the way.”
Ms Sorkine said the training provided by the navy gave her the knowledge of what to expect when deployed on operations.
“But there is that sort of feeling that you don’t and things will turn custard.”
Being in Iraq with the navy could feel like ground hog day, Ms Sorkine said, with some days feeling the same over and over again.
Her time would be broken up by trips to various places such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai after several months of doing defence watches in the Gulf.
“There were dust storms out there which were not very pleasant especially if you were outside working on the ship,” she said.
“We were attacked when we were there, but we dealt with it because the training you had made you remember everything you had to do and you cannot really go wrong.
“It wasn’t the best outcome but no-one from our ship was injured it was just other people that we were patrolling with us, Americans mainly.”
The main issue for medics at sea Ms Sorkine said was for them to adapt to working as a team which was dependent on how big the ship was – the bigger the ship, the bigger the team.
“If you go on a minimum person ship, you are the medic and that is it.
“It is a big responsibility.”
Ms Sorkine said when she returned home from serving abroad there was a big parade for the servicemen and women when they arrived in Sydney.
“It was really amazing they really put it on, I got off the gangway and I thought, ‘thank Christ I am home.’
“It is a real feeling of relief.”
For Ms Sorkine, Anzac Day was about coming together and working together as a team in times when you need to.
“There is no selfishness or anything like that and when someone asks you to do something, you just do it. The pay or the hours do not matter when something is going on.
“You are there to do a job, you signed up for it.”
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