18 August 2023

A Eurobodalla march is making 'space at the front' for younger veterans

| Claire Sams
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Anzac Day service

Brigadier (Retired) Suzanne Melotte, who addressed the crowd on Anzac Day 2023, will also address those who gather in September. Photo: Moruya RSL.

A march is set to bring together the younger veterans living and working on the South Coast.

To recognise veterans from recent conflicts and peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, a march has been organised for 2 September.

But Moruya RSL Sub-Branch vice-president Gary Traynor said the event was about more than recognition.

“We want younger veterans to know there’s a space for them in the veteran community, and it’s a space at the front,” Mr Traynor said.

“It’s important that these young fellows and women realise that they are also Anzacs, they are custodians of the commemorative aspect of what it is to be Australian.”

For the first time, the Batemans Bay, Tomakin, Moruya and Narooma RSL Sub-Branches will join and march together.

“I think it’s a wonderful show of unity, and there’s always strength in numbers,” Mr Traynor said.

“Anniversary dates often come and go but we believe that by hosting a march, we’re physically demonstrating our willingness to reach out to these younger veterans.”

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The march will start at the police station at 26 Orient Street in Batemans Bay and finish at the Batemans Bay cenotaph.

“We’re very pleased to say that the march will be led off by the Batemans Bay Pipe Band,” Mr Traynor said.

When the march reaches the cenotaph, addresses will be made, including by Brigadier (Retired) Suzanne Melotte.

“She resides in Moruya and has the substantial rank of brigadier,” Mr Traynor said.

The date had been chosen to mark the 15th anniversary of the Battle of Khas Oruzgan, which occurred in Afghanistan in 2008.

“It was a fairly major engagement, and we wanted to choose a date which resonates with these veterans,” Mr Traynor said.

“We’re using that date and that anniversary as a commemorative focal point to recognise the service of all young veterans – or new-generation veterans, as I call them.

“We want to show that the older generations of the RSL do actually respect and acknowledge and recognise their service.”

The battle on 2 September, 2008, also marked the start of a new honour for Australians, Mr Traynor said.

“On that particular day in that battle, Mark Donaldson performed an act which caused him to be awarded the first Australian Victoria Cross, so it’s very significant in that respect,” he said.

“That was the very first time where an Australian Victoria Cross was awarded, as prior to that date, we’d been under the British system of being awarded Victoria Crosses.”

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Mr Traynor said that while the event was not planned as an annual one, the hope was that its impact continued.

“It’s not a state or an Australia-wide effort, and it is a one-off march,” he said.

“But we’re hoping that it gains some traction.”

The overall plan for the march was to bring younger veterans in, he said.

“We want to reach out to these young veterans and tell them that we do recognise their service.

“Even if they don’t want to join the RSL, we want to make sure they know we are there to help them if they need it.”

Veterans do not need to be members of an RSL sub-branch to join the march.

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