Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australian soldiers must “of necessity suspend their humanity ... (and) do dark and dire things” while honouring a soldier killed in Afghanistan at the Australian War Memorial on Thursday morning.
He was opening “Poppy’s”, formerly the Terrace Cafe at the AWM, which has been renamed in honour of Trooper David “Poppy Pearce”.
Trooper Pearce, who had joined the army in his 30s, was affectionately known as “Poppy” by his much younger comrades because of his age.
In 2007, shortly after he was killed when the ASLAV in which he was travelling ran over a roadside bomb, his mates redeveloped the cafe area at their base in Tarin Kowt and named it Poppy’s in his honour.
Mr Abbott brought the kangaroo and boomerang which had decorated that cafe back to Australia with him after his first visit to Afghanistan as Prime Minister last year.
His first stop after getting off the plane at Canberra Airport was the Australian War Memorial where he handed the items to Dr Brendan Nelson, the director.
“The interesting thing about Australian soldiers, about Australian warriors, is that they never lose their humanity,” he said.
“(But) we need to acknowledge soldiers in the field have to, of necessity, suspend their humanity. They suspend their humanity in order to preserve our humanity.
“Even in the midst of a war zone it is important to gather from time to time with your mates and to be human.”
Mr Abbott said this was one of the things that characterised Trooper Pearce whose widow, Nicole, and the couple’s two daughters, had travelled from Queensland for the event.
“He loved to be with his mates, he was great company, he loved them and they loved him and that’s why they chose to name the place where they gathered to talk, to relax, to think of home, Poppy’s Cafe.”