ANZAC DAY 2017
BRIGADIER STEVEN LEE, AM (retd)
Brigadier Steven Lee entered the Army (Royal Military College) in January 1983 graduating in December 1986 into the Royal Australian Corps of Signals.
Steven completed over thirty years’ service in the Australian Army serving in many locations throughout Australia and overseas. Much of his early career was served in operational Army units including the 7th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare), 72nd Electronic Warfare Squadron, 103rd Signal Squadron and Northern Command.
Steven served with both the United States Army and the British Army on exchange. He was fortunate to be posted to the British Army on the Rhine for 12 months just prior to the reunification of Germany. He was also an Exchange Officer at the U.S. Army’s Signal Centre and for his service during that time he was awarded the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal.
Steven was appointed the Commanding Officer of the 7th Signal Regiment in 2002 and after two years of command served three years in the Australian Embassy in Washington as the senior communications staff officer.
Steven had operational experience in the first Australian Contingent to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) as the contingent communications officer and Regimental Signals Officer. He also served on Operation CATALYST as Deputy Chief of Staff HQ Multinational Forces – Iraq (MNF-I). For his service in Iraq, Steven was awarded the U.S. Bronze Star Medal.
Steven was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Military Division in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2012 for exceptional performance of duty.
Steven retired from the Australian Defence Force at the rank of Brigadier on 17 October 2014 after over 31 ½ years of service
Recitation of poem
In Flanders Field by Lieutenant Colonel
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row by row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
ANZAC DAY SPEECH
MOLOGA, VICTORIA, 25 APRIL 2017
Australians all let us rejoice – for we are young and free.
With a sense of awkward humility, abiding reverence and overwhelming pride, we pause here at this Memorial – free and confident heirs to a legacy born of idealism, forged in self-sacrifice and passed now to our generation.
We gather in renewed commitment to one another, our nation and the ideals of mankind.
Young Australians and New Zealanders gave their all at Gallipoli, forging in bloody sacrifice the bond within which our two nations now live.
It heralded the cataclysm from which we emerged proud – but inconsolably mourning 62,000 Australian dead.
Witness to it all, Australia’s official historian Charles Bean, wrote at its end:
What these men did, nothing can alter now.
The good and the bad.
The greatness and the smallness of their story
It rises, it always rises…above the mists of ages, a monument to great hearted men, and for their nation – a possession forever.
Bean’s account of an Australian digger arriving at the front trench before the assault on Lone Pine says it all:
A voice rose from the fire step, “Yeah, right here Bill”.
“Do you chaps mind movin’ up a piece?” asked the first voice.
“Him and me are mates – and we’re goin’ over together”.
We remember all those whose name appears on this beautiful memorial from the Great War. Dedicated poignantly by Mrs Marlow on the 24th of March 1920 who lost three of her boys.
A generation later, Sergeant Jack Sim of the 39th battalion endured the desperate struggle on the Kokoda Track:
Some prayed, some swore with fear – but you couldn’t show it in front of your mates.
One of the boys got shot fair between the eyes right alongside me.
It was a perfect shot…. terrible to be afraid.
Yet it’s the brave ones that are afraid and still keep going.
That’s what they did you know.
Scared bloody stiff and still kept going.
They were so young
They were so young
I loved them all.
It is tempting, human beings that we are, to settle for broad brushstrokes, headlines and shallow imagery of history. Our comfortable lives breed easy indifference to individual sacrifices made in our name and devotion to duty.
102,700 Australians are named on the Roll of Honour in Canberra. Like us, each had only one life, one chance to serve others and our nation.
They chose us.
No Australians have given more, nor worked harder to shape our values and our beliefs, the way we relate to one another and see our place in the world than those who have worn and who now wear – the uniform of the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Airforce.
They have given us a greater belief in ourselves and a deeper understanding of what it means to be – Australian.
They – and especially physically and emotionally wounded veterans amongst us, families who love and support them, remind us that there are some truths by which we live that are worth fighting to defend.
To young Australians – your search for belonging, meaning and values for the world you want – ends here.
Enshrined in stained glass windows sentinel above the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, are fifteen values informing character:
RESOURCE CANDOUR DEVOTION CURIOSITY INDEPENDENCE
COMRADESHIP ANCESTRY PATRIOTISM CHIVALRY LOYALTY
COOLNESS CONTROL AUDACITY ENDURANCE DECISION
Our Australia enshrines principle above position and values before value.
Our responsibilities to one another, our nation and its future transcend and define our rights.
Charles Bean concluded that what made the Australian soldier so special, ‘lay in the mettle of the men themselves’.
To be the kind of man that would give way when his mates were trusting to his firmness. To spend the rest of his life haunted by the knowledge he had ……. lacked the grit to carry it through, was a prospect with which these men could not live.
Life was very dear. But life was not worth living unless they could be true to their ideal of Australian manhood.
A century later, SAS Sergeant ‘S’ reflecting on the battle of Tizak in Afghanistan said:
To fail would be worse than death.
To let down your mates in combat…. would be worse than death.
I don’t (even) know why I’m getting emotional about this….
Yeah, that’s it – that’s the essence.
You don’t let your mates down.
That is the essence.
The most fragile yet powerful of human emotions is hope – belief in a better future, a better world.
Hope is sustained most by men and women reaching out in support of one another – ‘mates who go over together’ and though gripped with fear, don’t let one another down.
Their spirit is here.
This place, this day – is not about war.
It is about love and friendship.
Love of family, of country and honouring those who devote their lives not to themselves but to us; and their last moments – to one another.
After the bloodbath at Fromelles, Sergeant Simon Fraser spent three backbreaking days bringing in the wounded from No Man’s Land.
A lone voice pleaded through the fog, “Don’t forget me cobber”.
We never will.
For we are young, and we are free.
Lest we forget.