Good afternoon Brian,
As you are no doubt aware I am a former ADF member having retired compulsorily in February 2019. My longtime service in the ADF, which draws back to 1973, has also given me an interest in Veterans’ causes.
One such cause was an idea that I had put forward back in 2013 to my Army chain of command, various Federal Ministers and the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding a National Day similar to Vietnam Veterans Day 18th August.
However to date no-one has been interested in my proposal or idea.
I am writing to you as I believe you have a greater reach within the broader spectrum of the media and considerable influence in the ADF in successfully championing such idea into fruition.
My proposal was to have the National Day on the 16th of February each year as the date coincides with the untimely death of Sgt Andrew Russell SASR who was killed in Afghanistan.
The day should be called MEAO Day (Middle East Area of Operation) which would embrace the entire declared area for land, sea and air so as to include all veterans no matter what their task entailed.
I recently resubmitted my idea to the Governor – General and Peter Dutton in writing on the 16th of July 2021, and am yet to receive a reply.
Recently I believe you have initiated an interest in such day as aforementioned and I believe you have the ability to push this idea forward which I tried to way back in 2013 without success.
If you wish to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me and l will be most happy to oblige.
Neil Hammett (via email)
You flatter me. And, I assure you honestly, your flattery is misplaced.
I do not have any sway with Defence. In fact I’m quite sure they would do exactly the opposite to anything I suggest or campaign for. No joke.
And, your crediting me with ‘initiating an interest in such a day’ is also a little bit off.
What you saw on CONTACT in this regard actually came from the Vet Affairs minister. So, while they may have (impolitely) failed to respond to your submissions, they have actually decided that there will be such a day – to commence next year – and the recent story was specifically seeking public input to choose an appropriate date.
Re your name suggestion of MEAO Day, I would just point out it hasn’t been called MEAO for several years. It has officially and formally been referred to as the Middle East Region (MER) for quite some time.
One of my points in the recent article on the CONTACT web site was that we actually don’t and never have had an actual name for “Australia’s longest war”. Politics/politicians – PAH!
Thank you for writing – on a worthy topic.
Cheers for now,
FILE PHOTO: Members of Overwatch Battle Group–West get ready to participate in an ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Talil, Iraq, 2008. Photo by Brian Hartigan.