RSL bid to reward younger veterans

Younger defence force veterans of recent conflicts and operations would be given the honour of leading this year's Anzac Day parade under a proposal by Returned and Services League State president Graham Edwards.

Mr Edwards said it was time former service personnel who had taken part in operations since the Vietnam War were publicly recognised and thanked.

He said that traditionally, Anzac Day marches in Perth were led by serving defence personnel followed by other uniformed services and then former service organisations. "I am calling for . . . younger veterans to be given the opportunity of pride of place in this year's Anzac Day march," Mr Edwards said.

His proposal was a one-off and after this year's march the focus would rightly be on the commemoration of Anzac Day for the next four years, he said.

"If we don't properly acknowledge the service of these young men and women this year then the opportunity will probably be lost for a long time," he said.

"Timely acknowledgment is important as many Vietnam veterans will tell you given the cold shoulder of indifference and indeed hostility that many of them faced on their return and the lack of acknowledgment for many years.

"In addition it is important for the RSL to let these young men and women know that we appreciate, respect and acknowledge the tremendous service they have put in." Under Mr Edwards' plan, serving members of the defence forces could choose to march out of uniform at the front with the former service veterans of recent conflicts or in uniform with their own units.

Mr Edwards, a Vietnam veteran, said the RSL was working through the logistics.

"We recognise there are some military protocols that we have to work through, and precedent and protocol might dictate that the uniformed serving members of the ADF actually lead the parade," he said.

If the younger former service veterans did not march at the front of the parade, he would like to see them at the front of the former service ranks rather than at the rear following veterans of older conflicts and operations.

He said they would be identifiable by banners which would group together veterans of operations which could include Namibia, Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Bougainville, the Persian Gulf, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former sapper Scott Rogers, 39, backed the plan, saying many of those who had served in recent years had taken part in many deployments. He served with the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Banda Aceh and Iraq.

Mr Rogers, president of the Bellevue RSL, said many veterans of multiple operations did not have the same sense of unity as those who had served in individual operations from World War II through to Vietnam.

The West Australian

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