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Students Hear From Veterans

Talking At Castle Hill High Wing Commander Frank Distefano Air Force And Major Glynn Potter Army Students Hear From Veterans
Talking at castle hill high: wing commander frank distefano (air force) and major glynn potter (army)

Chris Kirk is one of several veterans from Castle Hill RSL sub-branch who have been talking to students about their service in the Middle East.

The talks are part of the Postcards of Honour campaign as a lead up to the Middle East Area of Operations National Commemoration Day. After the talks students are given blank postcards to decorate and write a message to a Middle East veteran.

So far veterans have spoken at Kellyville Public School, Excelsior Public School and Castle Hill High. The postcards will be posted by Castle Hill RSL sub-branch to local veterans.

Forty-one Australians died in Afghanistan, including former Oakhill student Trooper Jason Brown. Two lives were lost in Iraq and Kuwait and many veterans returned from the Middle East with long-lasting physical and mental trauma.

Chris Kirk, who served for 17 years in the British Army was the youngest soldier in his troop when he was first posted to Iraq in 2003.

“The others were much older and they looked out for me. When I was deployed in 2006 to Iraq we had a few 18-year-olds in the troop and the roles were reversed. I looked out for them. The friends I made and the comrades I had were brilliant.”

He said talking to Year 5 students at Kellyville Public was a rewarding experience. “They listened and asked questions that were respectful and well thought out. They also wanted to know what the food was like.”

Chris Kirk And Wo Haonan Teng Copy Students Hear From Veterans
Talking at kellyville public: petty officer haonan teng (navy) and private chris kirk

Co-ordinator of the program in the HIlls, Vietnam veteran Phill Evenden said: “Having learnt the lessons on the way Vietnam veterans were treated both by the public and the military after we withdrew from Vietnam, the RSL movement and the Government decided on a commemoration day specific to the Middle East campaign.

“The significance of the date, July 11th, is that it is the month and day in 2021 that troops were officially withdrawn for the Middle East and the war was declared over. “

On 11 July 2021, the Minister for Defence confirmed that all Australia personnel had been withdrawn from Afghanistan bringing Australia’s longest war to an end. An official National service will be held at the Cenotaph at 11am on Thursday, 11th July.

Chris Kirk won’t be part of the Castle Hill RSL sub-branch group because he will be walking the Kokoda track with other veterans.

Castle Hill RSL sub-Branch has arranged for a memorial to be installed at Castlebrook Cemetery to acknowledge the Middle East campaign. It has also been helping schools establish their own memorials.

There are memorials at several Primary schools including, Kellyville Public School, North Kellyville, Excelsior, Jasper Road, Castle Hill and Samuel Gilbert Public School. For more information about the talks or the memorials contact Phill Evenden on 0413 715 622.

Bev Jordan

Bev Jordan studied journalism at Harlow College in the UK.  She achieves a Diploma in Journalism from the National Council for the Training of Journalists. After migrating to Australia at the end of 1984, she took up a Senior Journalist position with Cumberland Newspapers, based on the Parramatta Advertiser. She has since worked on the Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and was a lecturer in Journalism at Macleay College in Sydney. Bev returned to Cumberland Newspapers (NewsLocal) and worked for 30 years covering all different mastheads, including Mosman Daily, Mount Druitt Standard and finally Hills Shire Times for the last 17 of those years. Bev’s passion has always been local community journalism.  She says “As a journalist, I have always seen it as my job to inform, inspire and involve.  I am a passionate advocate for organisations and people making a difference to the world around them. Connectedness is so important to the health of an individual but also to a community, no matter how small or large.

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