Anzac legacy brings longest war into focus

In the Kabul dawn, Australian Defence Force personnel on deployment in what remains Australia’s longest war have gathered to mark Anzac Day.

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Flanked by the flags of the host of nations that have contributed to the coalition effort in the war-torn country, about 100 people from various armed forces as well as dignitaries on Monday came together at Hamid Karzai International Airport to remember the fallen.

Forty-three Australians have been lost in the conflict in Afghanistan – which has endured since 2001, and continues.

Australia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Matt Anderson, was joined by his Turkish counterpart, Ali Sait Akin, as well as Australia’s commanding officer in Afghanistan, Brigadier Cheryl Pearce, and the Afghan Defence Minister, Masoom Stanekzai for the small but solemn ceremony.

The crisp morning was met with prayer, the laying of wreaths, the Ode of Remembrance and sound of bagpipes.

Wreaths were laid by both ambassadors, as well as Brigadier Pearce, who later said the ceremony was a reflection of what Australian forces are doing in Afghanistan.

“What we are remembering are the sacrifices of those who have come before us in all the wars,” Brigadier Pearce said.

“And probably more so on operations (we reflect on) what we are doing here, what is our mission, what is our focus and our commitment as individuals and collectively as a group, as a task force.”

Mr Anderson,a former soldier, urged the ADF members present to look after each other.

“Afghanistan is Australia’s longest war. We cannot and we must not allow it to be followed by our longest silence,” he said.

“Look at the mates standing next to you today and make this promise that while deployed here and on your return you’ll look after one another.”

In the still of the morning, amid the occasional thunder of helicopters, the last post was played as the sun rose over the mountains that surround the Afghan capital, which a week ago was rocked by its deadliest attack since 2001.

Signalman Tim Jerome from the 7th Signal Regiment out of Toowoomba, a member of the catafalque party on Monday, said it was a “massive honour” to be serving his country in Afghanistan on Anzac Day.

“We’re honouring the memory of those who came before us and the fallen,” he said.

“We’ve got a job to do over here. It’s not finished. Afghanistan, it’s not a safe place anymore and we’ve got to make sure the Afghan forces are well capable of taking over.”