Photo wall helps community remember28 November 2019
Pioneer-Fitzroy-Highlands District’s memorial wall inspires conversation and contemplation.
Each year, millions of Australians utter the words “We will remember them” on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. We see images of monuments and cenotaphs etched with the names of men and women who never made it home and paid the ultimate sacrifice to allow us the life we sometimes take for granted.
As an RSL advocate, I also see the many individuals who were lucky enough to return home. Although most have moved on from their military careers, they remain steadfast members of the Defence family.
They are brothers, sons, husbands, daughters, sisters, wives, grandparents, grandchildren, cousins and friends.
I hear stories of mates, stepdads who served, men and women who came home and started businesses, who serve their community as volunteers and many who joined the emergency services. They fall in love, get married and start families.
They move to towns large and small – returning to places they call their communities and fall in line on ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and Vietnam Veterans Day.
They march with pride in honour of those who didn’t come home, remembering their days of service and their commitment to their country.
After the parade, they return home and carefully pack away their medals in a safe place alongside their uniform and hat. Their past service remains ever- present in their minds.
Photos show the innocence of youth
How do I remember them? I remember them through photographs, one of my passions. The black and white images of hundreds of ex-service men and women show the innocence of youth, anticipation of adventure and comradeship.
Some boys look so young they likely weren’t ready to leave their parents’ sides. But they went off in search of something – hoping to learn a trade, become a man or make their mark on the world.
Hundreds of stories are contained in the images collected on the wall of the Pioneer-Fitzroy-Highlands District office. The photos speak of past generations and the various branches of the armed forces that influenced our community and helped it grow and prosper.
They inspire conversations, no two of which are the same. For some, the wall is a place of honour for a recently passed loved one. For others, it brings back memories of best mates and the units they served with. Others find familiar faces on the wall, see Hollywood lookalikes or simply notice the large number of men and women who served our community. Some faces are well-known figures and others you’ve never heard of.
Veterans gazing at the wall often feel a sense of pride at seeing their own face looking back at them or feel the old rivalry of Army versus Navy versus Air Force reflected in their numbers on the wall.
Generations share commonalities
For me, this is a place of coming together and telling stories; one generation sharing commonalities with the other. It provides an opportunity for everyone to remember and ponder: what would our world be like if these individuals had not made the decision to sign up?
Their decision had a ripple effect across our region – not just on their family and friends, but inadvertently shared through their strong work ethic and team spirit, their ability to get the job done and support their mates.
I’ve heard that the best way to show appreciation of someone is to include them, so I hope that in the months to come we continue to receive photos for the wall and fill the blank spaces with faces from our community.
The faces of men and women whose actions made a discernible difference to our lives. I will remember them.
If you would like to contribute to the memorabilia wall, contact the Pioneer- Fitzroy-Highlands District office on 07 4957 4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.