‘Give peace a chance’

FOR the fifth year running, local peace group Remembering and Healing (RaH) will hold two multi-faith and multicultural peace services for Anzac Day in Lismore.

One of the organisers, RJ Poole, is a former SAS trooper who joined the army at age 17 and spent six years with the military before realising it wasn't the life for him.

"I was the second youngest ever to get in (to the SAS) at that stage and found it an extremely stressful and competitive environment. I wasn't treated well and realised there was a better life on the outside."

Though he never served in a war zone, RJ was involved in counter-insurgency/counter- terrorism operations after the Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978.

He said in the first 18 months he was with the SAS, six of his colleagues were killed through crashes and accidents, and another four were crippled.

"That's been the pattern for the regiment. Most SAS soldiers don't get killed by the enemy. They're too good at it themselves."

RJ said post-traumatic stress disorder was an ongoing problem for ex-servicemen and women, and he believes the cost of war should not be measured just in terms of financial cost and the body count, but the trauma it causes to all those involved.

"It's not just the cost to lives, but the damage and trauma it causes to everyone involved and their families. If you look at the Vietnam veterans' children, they will tell you how bad the family was as a result of their dad's involvement. The total picture is bigger than the war itself."

Australia's former chief commander of defence forces, General Peter Cosgrove, recently said in an interview on ABC Radio: "All war is a mistake - all war."

It's a sentiment RaH endorses, and their ceremonies are designed to honour all war dead (civilian and military, on all sides), and all who have suffered as a result of war.

At the same time, there is a commitment to work towards preventing such sacrifice and suffering in the future.

"Part of the solution lies in addressing the culture we have, the tradition of Anzac Day.

"We're looking to open peoples' eyes and to support loved ones of those that have served in war, but I think we can do it best by listening to what people say and work towards future generations not going to war."

RaH peace events in Lismore

  •  Anzac Day eve (Wednesday, April 24), 5.30pm at Lismore Uniting Church (on the corner of Keen and Woodlark Sts)
  •  Anzac Day (Thursday, April 25), 30 minutes after the official program finishes at the cenotaph, 11am at Lismore Peace Park, (corner of Ballina Rd and Keen Sts. If raining, the service will be moved to Trinity Hall, 1 Dawson St).

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