Australian solders who died in the Middle East did not sacrifice their lives in vain, despite Afghanistan’s rapid fall to the Taliban.
That’s the message from former Australian ambassador to Afghanistan, Matt Anderson, to people gathered across the country for Remembrance Day.
The 103rd anniversary of the end of WW1 marked the first Remembrance Day in more than two decades where Australia was not involved in an active conflict, following allied forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Our enemies feared them, our allies revered them, and those Afghans we worked with most closely … asked for the Australians to return,” the ambassador turned Australian War Memorial director told a service in Canberra on Thursday.
“You can learn a lot about a country by understanding what it’s prepared to fight for.
“You can learn even more from what its sons and daughters are prepared to die for.”
Afghanistan fell rapidly to the Taliban in August after a near 20-year occupation by Western forces. Australia withdrew in June.
Reiterating the words of a chaplain who ministered to troops in Afghanistan, Mr Anderson described success as “the people we bring home and hopefully the pride they have in the job they have done”.
Governor-General David Hurley attended Canberra’s national service, while Veterans’ Affairs Minister Andrew Gee and Labor senator Katy Gallagher laid wreaths on behalf of the prime minster and opposition leader, respectively.
“From those who fought on the Western Front more than a hundred years ago to those still serving abroad today, we must continue to acknowledge their service and sacrifice,” Mr Gee said.
In Melbourne, Scott Morrison paid tribute to servicemen and women, describing it as a day of “profound reflection”.
“Remembrance Day is a day to honour veterans. It doesn’t matter which battle, which conflict – the same uniform has been worn,” the prime minister told veterans.
“The same honour has been lived up to. We are safer today because of your efforts, we are free today because of your efforts.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese marked the day at a ceremony at Balmain in Sydney, stressing Australia had a responsibility to look after those who fought.
“We have a sacred responsibility to care for those who volunteer to defend us even now,” he said.
“Many never come home the same, their old selves left behind forever on a distant battlefield. Many never come home.”