Canberra welcomes home Afghanistan veterans
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Canberra welcomes home Afghanistan veterans

It was Australia's longest war, and the nation's leaders have marked the end of the Afghanistan operation by assuring those who served that the world is a better place for it.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott led the dignitaries at the Welcome Home parade outside the Australian War Memorial on Saturday, honouring the men and women from the Australian Defence Force, Federal Police and Public Service who spent time in Afghanistan and the Middle East as part of Operation SLIPPER.

[L-R]: Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, salutes as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mark Colvin receive the parade on Saturday.

[L-R]: Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, salutes as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mark Colvin receive the parade on Saturday.

Photo: Matt Bedford

"That war ended, not with victory and not with defeat, but with hope, hope for a better Afghanistan and safer world," Mr Abbott said.

"Afghanistan is a better country because Australia was there.

The Operation SLIPPER welcome home parade marches down Anzac Parade, Canberra.

The Operation SLIPPER welcome home parade marches down Anzac Parade, Canberra.

Photo: Photo by Matt Bedford
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"Thanks to you there are girls' schools, roads and bridges where there were none."

Some of the 2100 men and women, military and civilian, who marched in Canberra said the day's events - watched by several thousand supporters - were an important recognition for those who served in the operation, which began in October 2001.

Flight Lieutenant Stephen Booth, 28, spent four months in Afghanistan in 2013 and said he enjoyed being put to the test after years of training, but there were difficult times.

"I'd just done exercises and continuation training with the late Cameron Baird [killed in June 2013], a very good friend of a lot of my friends – it brings it close to home.

"It's extremely great to know that the nation is behind us and support us."

Department of Defence employee Patrick Foxley, 30, left the comfort of Russell to spend seven months in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates and said his time on bases providing support to the troops was "eye-opening and quite exciting".

"There were a couple of times where we did get rocket attacks – I didn't go outside the wire," he said.

"For me the parade here in Canberra is an opportunity for me and the other civilians to have a bit of recognition, and to reflect on the operation we've been on and the contribution we've been able to make."

War Memorial director Brendan Nelson read the Honour Roll, with the names, ages, regiments and dates of death – stretching from February 2002 to July last year – of the 41 troops who lost their lives. The five youngest were just 21, the oldest 41.

Another 263 were wounded, and as all political and military leaders who spoke acknowledged, many more who have returned continue to battle psychological scars.

Parades were held in all state and territory capitals as well as Townsville.

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