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Lest We Forget

The words sum up our societal desire to remember the past tragedy and sacrifice in order to ensure that such bloody catastrophe never happens again. Few people now remember where the phrase “Lest We Forget” comes from – a piece by Rudyard Kipling written in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, often sung as a hymn.

Lest We Forget

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!1

Every year, more so than any other occasion, the nation comes together and pauses to remember the sacrifice made by so many. Covid highlighted our determination, with driveway vigils lighting up the nation when we were not allowed to gather together.

Without standing in judgement – our commemoration seems to exclude those who did not die, perhaps because the focus – rightfully on ANZAC Day – is the World War I veterans, We stand and give thanks to those who have died, and spare little thought for those who did not. War has not ended. Conflict has not ended. Our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers still serve both here and overseas, while they are able. Government support for veterans is minimal – the entire mental health system is in desperate need of fixing, as demonstrated by Victoria’s recent royal commission – and the majority of support is provided by voluntary organisations.

As a whole, veterans’ mental health is worse than the average, and the support for them less so.

From 2001 to 2017, there were 419 suicides in serving, reserve and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who have served since 2001. Compared with Australian men, the age-adjusted rate of suicide over this period was 48% lower for men serving and in the reserves, and 18% higher for ex-serving men. Over the same period, the age-adjusted rate of suicide among ex-serving women was higher than that of Australian women.2

As individuals, there is little we can do to help directly, outside of volunteering with a support organisation (see below). But we can – we will  – remember them.

 

If a veteran you know (or anyone else) needs help:

 

For veterans, Carry On Victoria has an extensive list of Organisations to support you:

Yong Veterans Australia was started by a young returned serviceman from Berwick to help vets under the age of 50

 

1sourced by the Poetry Foundation from A Choice of Kipling’s Verse, 1943. Public domain.

2National suicide monitoring of serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel: 2019 update.

Featured Image Source: ABC News Article: The history of forgetting, from shell shock to PTSD

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