For Gabrielle Prideaux, a recently retired army Major and Altona North mother of two, Remembrance Day will be a time to reflect on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Sitting in the quaint Newport RSL club last week, she is joined by a few members who in the past year helped save the sub-branch from permanent closure.
Major Prideaux retired two years ago after nearly 30 years’ service.
In 2011, she was the only female officer on the ground in Afghanistan while serving with America and other allies.
“In Afghan, we were working with counter-insurgency,” she said.
“Basically, what we tried to do there is to train the Afghan army and the police forces.
“We were also trying to reintegrate the ex-Mujahideen, the most ruthless people on earth, pretty much.”
She said her children “had to deal with a fair bit” in the past few years as she recovered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“It’s taken me two and half years to be sitting here because when you have PTSD it’s not easy for you to socialise,” Major Prideaux said.
“Legacy has really supported my children.
“The support from the RSL here has been amazing. They check in on me. They say, ‘Hey, come and have a snag on the barbie’, to try and get me back in to the socialising.
“This [club] was going to close and it’s really good to have a traditional club because it has the traditional values.
“So, they do come to your home, they do make those personal phone calls.
“They are really really keen to ensure that the local area vets are being supported, and it’s really appreciated.”
She tears up as she reflects on the meaning of Remembrance Day, a time when she will remember those who have been lost.
“I’d really like to see that this is something that in the future that doesn’t die, kind of fade away,” Major Prideaux said.
“It’s really important to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away, who have given us the freedoms that we enjoy today here in Australia.
“Without people leaving their families, making that sacrifice in itself – I mean, I didn’t see my kids for eight months – and then, on Remembrance Day, those people ultimately dying for the cause is something that Australians, particularly the youth of today, need to be able to acknowledge and understand because I think sometimes they take what they have today for granted.”
Lieutenant Colonel Adam Hogan, a currently serving Newport father of two, said he would reflect on, not so much what the military had done, but what family and friends did to support them.
“That gives me a chance to take stock and have a look at what I’ve got and why we do the things we do,” he said.
He, too, emphasised the importance of the local RSL club.
“I used to have a neighbour over the road, George Ford – he’s passed now,” Lieutenant Colonel Hogan said.
“He’s one of the immortals – one of the lifetime members.
“He and I were quite close friends, as close as a 98 year-old could be with a 42 year-old.
“It meant a lot to him, so he sort of got me involved in this as well.
“It was really sad [when it closed], and I used to speak with his daughter a bit and she was gutted at what happened.
“I’m glad that they’ve come back.”
On Remembrance Day, members of Newport, Footscray and Spotswood Kingsville RSL and Friends of Williamstown RSL will meet at the Newport War Memorial at 10.30am. The community is invited to attend the commemoration service and to return to the club for refreshments afterwards.