Why we are launching our new campaign #ThanksForServing
THREE words - that's all it takes to make a difference.
Today News Corp launches #ThanksForServing: a movement to acknowledge the service of veterans, past and present, and the sacrifice of their families.
It's backed by some of our most courageous soldiers - among them Victoria Cross holders Daniel Keighran and Keith Payne - and endorsed by key organisations including the RSL and Legacy.
As the end of the World War One Centenary approaches and the Invictus Games come Down Under, minds are focusing on 100 years of extraordinary efforts by Australian soldiers.
And with returned soldiers, then and now, often facing unique challenges - from battle-related conditions such as wounds or post-traumatic stress disorder, to difficulties adapting to post-military life - experts are urging other Aussies to reach out with a simple message.
"Saying thanks for serving is really important," said former Corporal Keighran, who earned Australia's highest bravery award in a ferocious firefight in Afghanistan in 2010. "For serving men and women and veterans - but also for their families, who can feel so isolated."
Former Warrant Officer Class 2 Payne, who joined the Australian Army aged 18 in 1951 and served in Korea, Malaya and PNG before he was awarded the VC for his actions in Vietnam, said the importance of the word "thankyou" cannot be underestimated.
"It is just important. So many soldiers come back from serving overseas suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I did myself when I came back from Vietnam … I know they've got a hard road ahead of them, and for them to know that people are behind them means a lot.
"Sometimes that's all they need."
While many Vietnam veterans were treated appallingly by a public opposed to Australia's involvement in that war - accused of murder and worse - Keighran believes that our attitudes have become far more discerning.
"I have experienced it myself. Today people are more likely to say 'I may not agree with what the government is doing, but I acknowledge what you have been through' - thanking you for your service."
The Brisbane-based ex-infantryman, who is currently taking an MBA as part of his continuing adaptation to civilian life, which has also included a stint in the mining industry, believes that is a point of difference between Australia and America, where veterans are celebrated across the board with a degree of fervour. This includes letting them board planes ahead of others, hailing them at big sporting events and holding public homecoming celebrations.
He believes a more heartfelt yet perhaps calmer "thank you" is a more authentically Aussie approach, which can be expressed at any time of year - not just Anzac Day and November 11, Remembrance Day.
#ThanksForServing is encouraging all Australians to voice that acknowledgment in any way they feel comfortable: from using the hashtag on social media; using our online form to send a messagesaying it in person to a veteran or their relatives; at public events; or starting by taking a moment of quiet reflection.
It's not just about those in uniform. As Keighran notes, it is crucial for families of those who are serving, have served; especially when they have come back from service forever altered - or not come back at all. That takes an extraordinary toll on spouses, partners, children and wider family - an issue to be explored in Foxtel's new drama Fighting Season.
"It's important to know their sons and daughters are not forgotten," he said, adding another thought. "A lot of Australians do not know what our current serving men and women do," said Keighran. "They wouldn't know unless something happened and was in the news - a fatality or something - but there are Australians overseas, in the Middle East, in harm's way. It's good to acknowledge that."
The role of relatives is a particular focus for the charity Legacy, which is among organisations endorsing #ThanksForServing.
"As a returned serviceman, I understand first-hand the sacrifices made by serviceman and women, and we as a nation, must never forget," said its chairman Rick Cranna, OAM. "As a Legatee (volunteer), having cared for widows and their children for more than 40 years, these sacrifices echo endlessly within the family that remain. The sacrifices made by families are no less important and must not be overlooked. I encourage all Australians to pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families through the #ThanksForServing campaign."
The RSL is also fully backing #ThanksForServing and wrapping it into a number of its projects, from care packages to troops overseas, through its forthcoming Veterans Film Festival and the ongoing Anzac Bears To Schools drive.
"For more than a century, Australian men and women have served in uniform, putting their lives on the line - and many paying the ultimate price," said RSL National Acting Chairman John King, a 22-year full-time soldier.
"The simple act of saying 'Thanks for serving' - of acknowledging the hardships they face and the impact on their families - can be extraordinarily powerful. It's a small gesture with a big result - so in person, in public or on social media, please thank our men and women for their service towards our freedom."
And the minister for veterans' affairs, Darren Chester MP, has also thrown the government's weight behind it, saying: "'Thank you for your service'. It's a simple phrase but it can mean a lot to those who are spending months away from loved ones and removed from the simple pleasures of Australian life. The Australian people can be proud of the outstanding work being done by our Navy, Army and Airforce personnel and their families. They are remarkable individuals who have our support and respect."
KATE MULVANEY REVEALS WHY SHE GOT INVOLVED
Kate Mulvany knows through family experience the power of acknowledgment - and how devastating the lack of it can be.
The Fighting Season star's late father Danny, a "ten-pound Pom" British immigrant, fought for Australia in Vietnam. While serving in uniform on leave here he was beaten up; then he came back after the war and was denied citizenship for almost two decades.
"How's that for lack of acknowledgment?" she asks.
In large part due to the experiences of her father and his friends - and her own horrific diagnosis with cancer in infancy, as a direct result of Danny's exposure to the chemical weapon Agent Orange - Mulvany feels deeply about veterans' issues.
She is joining Fighting Season colleagues and other well-known faces from TV, sport and current affairs in a moving #ThanksForServing video campaign helmed by Foxtel,with Fox Sports and Sky News Australia.
"Acknowledgment is always powerful. The things that these men and women are doing for us and in our country's name are extraordinary; and life-changing on so many levels.
"They are soldiers and they are peacekeepers and I think we forget about that. This is their job: they are our protection, yet for them to come home and never have that acknowledged is horrific and adds to the trauma. I saw that happen in my own father - the lack of acknowledgment added to his lifelong trauma.
"It's all about making room for them when they come home in our community."
The actor and playwright, currently starring in An Enemy Of The People at Sydney's Belvoir Theatre, based much of her role in Fighting Season on those personal experiences. The show, which premieres on Showcase on October 28, focuses on the challenges facing soldiers returning from Afghanistan.