War hero’s Christmas plea – myZOO

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War hero’s Christmas plea – myZOO

Clipped from: http://www.optuszoo.com.au/news/top/courier-mail/war-heros-christmas-plea/544373?mid=559

War hero’s Christmas plea

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Dec 20, 2011 5:49am

THE first Australian soldier to receive a Victoria Cross in 40 years has made an impassioned Christmas plea urging the nation to stand behind our troops overseas.

Corporal Mark Donaldson, in a rare public address, has cautioned Australians against being consumed by trivial concerns, urging them to think about soldiers putting everything on the line in Afghanistan.

"Maybe, at this time of Yule, we can remember what they and those before them have given so we can enjoy a safe Christmas at home with our family and friends."

More than 2400 Australian Defence Force personnel, including Queenslanders, are deployed through the Middle East.

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ISN’T it funny how we all start looking forward to Christmas and the holiday break?

We spend the weeks before thinking and planning how we are finally going to do that nagging job around the house or what beer to drink while watching the Boxing Day Test.

Yet it always seems we can never quite enjoy ourselves and that something crops up to dampen our spirits.

The computer crashes and you lose that report that took an hour to write; the car in front just won’t get out of the way; the dog has dug up the garden again. And the kids have made the house look like a pig sty.

The next thing you know it’s Christmas Day and no amount of joy or peace can get you through the hours of the same old stories from Uncle John and the in-laws.

The worst part is just how much more exaggerated the stories become as the day goes on and the level of enjoyment increases.

Before you know it, something that is a fantastic opportunity to spend quality time with those close to you is taken for granted and becomes yet another encumbrance – at least that’s how it is for many of us.

Yet, in far off Afghanistan and for reasons most people don’t understand, there stands a sentinel, in the dirt, mud, snow and slush. The whipping, ice-cold wind trying to cut through their camouflage uniform.

They will stay strong and stoic. They fight under our nation’s flag and, like all our soldiers, will give the Australian people 100 per cent effort in everything they do.

They’ll probably get no ham, bon bons with silly hats and terrible jokes. No afternoon nap on the couch or watching their kids play with their new presents or cool off under the hose.

I can guarantee, however, that at some stage over the Christmas break these soldiers will be on a mission in enemy territory. They will go out on patrol, all the time making sure their mates next to them are safe.

Instead of stepping out for a barbecue, or on to their favourite beach, they will face the ever-present potential of stepping on an improvised explosive device or stopping a bullet with body or limb while in a firefight.

However, don’t feel sorry for them and don’t wish them home. It is their job and it is what they are trained to do – without whingeing, without complaint and without the luxuries. It is just like any other high-pressure job except the consequences are much higher.

They will do their job with courage and integrity. And in true Aussie fashion you’ll be bound to hear them say, "… at least we get a white Christmas".

Imagine having the family gathered around the table this Christmas. Places at the table are set and everything is just right.

Yet this Christmas is different. There’s an empty seat at the table come lunchtime.

For some that seat would have been filled by a family member who is instead serving overseas.

For others, it marks the place of a loved one who has made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in service to our nation.

Regardless of what the dog dug up, despite that annoying driver and irrespective of the in-laws’ embarrassing rants and raves, there is one thing we can do this Christmas.

We can spare a thought for them, our defence personnel.

To all our defence personnel and their families, particularly those serving overseas, thank you and merry Christmas.

January 16, 2009, Corporal Mark Donaldson (then trooper) became the first Australian in almost 40 years to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia’s highest military honour.