As you all know last week I hit the road and headed down to Kapooka for a March Out Parade on Friday the 13th.
I will share details of the Parade with you but if you are not interested in that, perhaps because you have attended your own parades or those of family or friends, please skip down to read about the families I visited after the parade.
I won’t identify or embarrass the young man I whose March Out I attended as I don’t think that is fair (and no, I have not made him a quilt or a laundry bag yet!) What I will say is that he is a close family friend. I have supported his decision to join the Army all the way along. I put him in touch with people he could talk to prior to signing up and I always promised him that if he made it through Recruit Training I would come to his March Out. I could not have been more proud of him either. I knew he was a good fit for the Army and I am really looking forward to hearing how he goes during his next phase of training.
I have some photos to share as I know that many of you have never attended a military March Out or perhaps not an Army one so I thought you would like to see what happens, as much as photos can show you anyway. You really need to be at the parade ground to really appreciate the March Out but photos were the best I could manage. I have tried to explain what the pictures represent where possible and have pitched it at those who do not have a military background.
The whole procedure is repeated every week as a new course graduates and so Kapooka has everything down to a fine art. Families arrive at a large visitors car park anywhere from 8am onwards and the join a rather long queue to catch a succession of buses to the Parade Ground. There is covered seating for all the family and friends of the recruits which was great as it was raining on and off and was cold enough without being wet as well.
One thing you learn when you join the services is that they are steeped in a proud history and have many traditions. You soon learn NEVER to stroll across the parade ground to take a short cut and, if you do have to cross it, you MARCH! Quite understandable when you know why.
Two Black Hawk helicopters were positioned on the parade ground for the day.
This is a Leopard Tank – these were in service until just four years ago.
This gun is situated at the entrance to the path that goes behind the Parade Ground.
Hoping you can read the description of the Gun above.
You can’t walk on the Parade Ground to get the the covered seating so you have to walk along this pathway.
At last at 10am on the dot the band marched on. It has been over twenty years since I attended a military parade but the music brings it all back. You just can’t beat a military band.
There were two platoons Marching Out this day.
I thought they did a pretty good job but I bet there were a few hours of practice in there!
And yes, we were sitting under cover but those on the parade ground were not so lucky.
Mind you, I reckon this was not the worst they had experienced in the last few weeks!
They read out the names of the Platoon Commander and I was surprised to hear the name of one of my recipients.
For those without a military background, only the officers carry a sword.
The enlisted men and women carry a rifle.
This is the Governor General’s Banner being brought on to the parade ground. Note the white gloves worn by the colour party. The Banner is only ever handled with gloved hands to preserve it for as long as possible.
The Reviewing Officer arrives on the Parade Ground.
Reviewing Officer on the left and the Parade Commander.
This is the March Past. The Platoon has been given the order Eyes Right – that is a form of salute, in this case to the Reviewing Officer.
Standing at ease., one of the Platoon Commanders in the front with the sword.
The final Match Past
And the band leaves the Parade Ground.
At the conclusion of the parade we all traipsed over to climb on the buses again and this time we were transported to the Edmondson Soldier’s Club. The club is named in honour of Victoria Cross Recipient CPL John Hurst Edmondson who is buried at Toobruk Cemetary, who came from Liverpool. NSW but was born in Wagga. Severely wounded, he saved the life of LT F. A. Mackell on April 13 1941, four days after the siege of Toobruk began. He died of his wounds the next day. His photograph and a brass plaque inscribed with a transcript of his Victoria Cross Citation hang in the foyer of the Club
Some recipients have gone on to become friends and this one was working across the road from the Soldiers Club that day so was able to duck across to say a quick hello. He was lucky enough to receive a quilt and laundry bag from Liz. The quilt sits in pride of place on the back of the sofa.
Another recipient just happened to be a Corporal in charge of the Platoon that my young friend was Marching Out in. She received a quilt made by Lesley.
This is the Platoon Commander of my friend’s Platoon. I had not known he would be there so it was a lovely surprise to hear his name on the parade ground and he was also a good sport allowing me to take a photo to share with Lynn and Stephanie who collaborated with me on his quilt.
As you can see the Soldier’s Club was quite full. This is about half the crowd. After a few short speeches we were invited to join the new young soldiers for lunch…….Mess food at its best!
After lunch, it was nearly time to go. We had a quick look in the Solider’s Shop which is just outside the Club.
There is all sorts of bits and pieces for sale in there – extra bits of kit, books, mugs, key rings, you name it. I am sorry I did not get a photo of the hand grenade mugs! but how about a Kapooka Snow Globe!
Finally we were on the buses and headed back to the visitors car park where, a little while later, the new soldiers, now no longer recruits but Sappers, Gunners, Privates and the like were also delivered by bus. They were all dressed to go out on the town with their families having been granted leave till 9pm sharp!
It was time for me to say good bye to my friends and head off again.
Visits with two recipients and their families
In addition to going to the March out I also caught up with the families of two recipients which I consider to be a real privilege. The first of these families were my hosts for that night.
This fellow was a recipient of one of the very early quilts. I did not take any photos (because we were too busy talking) but I would not share them if I had in order to protect their privacy. What i will share with you is being shared with their permission.
I had met this family once before – a wonderful husband and wife with two gorgeous children. I had maintained very sporadic contact over the last two years but recently I saw a couple of comments on Facebook and, delighted to know that they were still following what we are doing, I decided to send them an email to catch up and see how things are.
Such is the reality of many of our servicemen and women after deployments to Afghanistan and elsewhere that the email I received back was not the sort of news I had hoped for. For the last 18 months or so this wonderful family has had their lives turned upside down and inside out as they learn to deal with a diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and depression.
Once I read that news I wrote back and asked if they would be interested in catching up in person seeing as I was going to be relatively nearby. They ended up inviting me to spend the night and I was so pleased to have the chance to visit them.
I had no idea what to expect when I got there, but was welcomed with such warmth and hospitality and big hugs. I won’t down play the situation that this couple now finds themselves in, but I have to say that although the diagnosis has turned their life upside down, and has made them completely re-think their plans for the future, I was so relieved to hear that my friend has sought the help he needs. There are still bad days and good days but what gave me hope and confidence was seeing this couple dealing with the issues together. We talked for hours and it was a very frank and open conversation. There are some tough days ahead but I am optimistic that they are heading in the right direction, they have great support and are doing what they need to do to get through this. I will be cheering them on now too and will not let so long pass between catching up.
PTSD is going to be such a huge problem for many of our wonderful heroes and they need to know that we care and that it does not change the way that we feel about them. We are still proud of them and, more than ever, appreciate their service and sacrifice.
My plea to anyone who reads this, who thinks they may be struggling, or who thinks they know someone who is struggling is to please seek help. There are many organisations out there who can guide and support you and you have earned the right to that support. Contact your Medical Centre, Chaplain, Psychologist, Social Worker, Duty Officer/Officer of the Day or your immediate chain of Command. You don’t have to deal with PTSD on your own and there is help available – and you deserve to get that help.
The other family I met for lunch the next day. This fellow received a quilt and laundry bag back in February 2013. Angela had emailed me with a photo of a laundry bag featuring big fish and asked me to find a suitable recipient for it. Next thing I knew a wife, called Melissa, contacted me requesting a quilt and laundry bag for her husband.
Now, I never name the recipients on the blog so I can’t tell you what their surname is but suffice to say that it immediately made me think of Angela’s fishy laundry bag. If your name is Bell or Green or Frost you are likely to receive an appropriate laundry bag if I am in the right mood. Sometimes I just can’t keep the sense of humour down. This time was one of those times. I did ask Melissa if she thought her husband would get the joke and she thought he would.
At the same time Liz had been given some material with cigars on it and she had cut it up nice and small so that the cigars were not toooo noticeable and made a really lovely quilt. We decided to send it to Melissa’s husband and it turns out that he was known to partake of the odd cigar so it wasn’t too far from the mark.
Melissa and I have kept in touch sporadically over the time but I had not realised that they had relocated to Wagga. It was great to be able to meet up and sit and have a chat. Great also to meet the whole family.
I had a great weekend but as always it was great to be home again.
Now I am really looking foward to my visit to Townsville in a couple of weeks!
Till next time………………….keep spreading the word and happy stitching! JMxx