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- Anzac Day 2015: Daniel Keighran VC Reflects on his Time in the Army and on 100 years of Anzac
Anzac Day 2015: Daniel Keighran VC Reflects on his Time in the Army and on 100 years of Anzac
Saturday 25 April, 2015
Source: by Daniel Keighran VC
The Anzac centenary is extremely important to me.
Out of those 100 years, I served for 10 of them and I know what it’s like to go to war – the experiences, losing mates – so to commemorate Anzac Day this year is extremely significant.
Even though there are no World War I veterans left, it is vital that we still recognise the sacrifices those guys made.
The Anzac spirit was forged on the shores of Gallipoli, and to come 100 years on and know that it’s still alive and well is quite remarkable.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like to row to shore at Gallipoli in timber boats, to step out of these boats under fire, to look up at the cliffs, and to know that you would soon need to be fighting with such little training as these guys would have had.
You’ve got your rifle, you’ve got your bayonet, you’ve got a few rounds. That’s about it – off you go.
I think our diggers were extremely young and extremely ill-prepared for what faced them.
I am quite lucky in that, after I joined the army, I had about four years of training before I first went overseas.
Veterans sharing their stories
Some of these young soldiers joined when they were 16 or 17 years of age, had maybe six months’ training if they were lucky, and then they were thrown straight into the thick of it.
In 2011, I transferred from the full-time army to the reserves. I still really enjoy spending time with my army mates as well as the older veterans, and in the lead up to the Anzac centenary I’ve been doing a fair bit of that.
The Redcliffe RSL, just north of Brisbane, named a gallery after me late last year and I recently went back there to see it again and meet some of the veterans.
I had a memorable morning listening to their stories from different campaigns throughout the history of the Australian Defence Force – it was quite a privilege.
They’ve all had very interesting lives and they’ve all done so much and for them to come back and be civilians after their service and still reflect so fondly on those times that they’ve served is really interesting.
Dan Keighran VC (2nd from left) with fellow veterans and members of Redcliffe RSL. (ABC)
I’ve also been spending time with my wife’s grandfather Ray, who served in Vietnam, and some of his veteran mates.
One thing I’ve noticed is that they’re always talking about the positives. You will often find veterans don’t tend to reflect on the bad times, or things that didn’t go to plan.
The mateship is still very much alive as well, and to have that bond 20 or 30 years later is something that is pretty impressive.
I think it’s because they’ve shared something – whether it be through their training or through their operations – that doesn’t compare to anything else in the civilian world.
Unravelling the meaning of ‘the Anzac spirit’
We always hear of this Anzac spirit, but what does it mean? What does it represent?
Well I can tell you, as a modern soldier, it’s to be in combat, and to see Australian soldiers in action.
Corporal Keighran earned his VC while serving in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan in 2010. (Supplied)
It’s those acts of courage, working together as a team, with your mates, with the humour that’s still involved and with all those terminologies that were first brought about 100 years ago that are still alive and well, and still displayed by our current defence personnel.
It’s been great to see the public coming out and supporting Anzac Day more and more over the last few years.
Numbers have increased dramatically and I’m sure this year the crowds will be the biggest yet.
What I’ve noticed in recent years is that the younger generations are no longer just wearing their great grandfathers’ medals, but also their grandfathers’, their fathers’ – or their mothers’ for that matter – and to see them marching is really special.
I think all Australians should try to at least acknowledge the Anzac centenary and the sacrifice that over 100,000 Australians have made over the years in different wars.
Daniel Keighran is Australia’s 99th Victoria Cross Recipient. His citation reads: “For the most conspicuous acts of gallantry and extreme devotion to duty in action in circumstances of great peril at Derapet, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan as part of the Mentoring Task Force One on Operation SLIPPER”.