Operation Slipper commemorative service Hobart
Your Excellency, Air Vice-Marshal Davies, Guy Barnett, MHA and most importantly all those involved in Operation Slipper and their families and friends – in particular Mr & Mrs Atkinson and family.
Eighty days ago today, Operation Slipper ended.
It had been our longest deployment - a deployment that in effect began on 11September 2001 and ended on the 31st of December 2014.
Our Prime Minister at the time – the Hon John Howard said “September 11 was a rare moment when evil emerged to challenge human decency upon which our democratic societies are built. It was not a local challenge – it was a global challenge –and it called for a global response.”
And Australia did her bit – as she always does – in the cause of freedom.
The cause of freedom demanding at the time that Afghanistan should no longer be a safe haven for terrorism.
The world is a better, safer and more secure place because of the service of our Australian men and women involved in Operation Slipper.
The commitment of these dedicated Australians to us, and the cause of freedom, like those that have gone before them is a cause for great thankfulness.
They didn’t have to go. They knew the risks.
Yet they answered the call of freedom – 34,500 of our fellow Australians - including over 1,300 from Tasmania – amongst them the husband of a staff member of mine, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Wilson.
41 made the ultimate sacrifice for us – including very sadly two Tasmanians – Corporal Atkinson – aged 22 – who was born in Hobart, and Corporal Baird who was born in Burnie and awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.
We will remember them – as we will remember the 262 who suffered serious physical wounds and all those who suffered unseen wounds.
Those that grieve; those that provide support to those with residual scars we salute you.
Be assured and comforted in the knowledge their sacrifice has been in the finest cause – the cause of freedom and liberty.
From combat operations, training, mentoring and advisory roles, providing air support, conducting maritime counter piracy and anti-terrorism operations, and the reconstruction and building of new infrastructure – our personnel were there making a difference – a difference for untold good.
As Corporal Richard Atkinson’s father graciously told me some four years ago, that in their last conversation courtesy of Skype, Corporal Atkinson told his father how he considered that he and Australia were playing an important role and how pleased he was with what he was doing.
He and his comrades did what they did – believing in the country they live in and believing that they were stemming the flow of terrorism.
Today’s commemoration is in response to our Prime Minister’s announcement that “Australia is to have an ANZAC Day style national commemoration for the war in Afghanistan, to ensure the bitter experience of returning Vietnam veterans is not repeated for those who have served in Australia’s longest war.”
So right around the Commonwealth today in every capital city and Townsville, there are parades such as this giving well deserved official and public recognition and thanks to our men and women who served our Nation and the world community in Operation Slipper.
We salute them. We thank God for them.
And we will remember them.