"As veterans we don't need to be idolised or pitied but we do need people to try and understand the experiences that we've gone through so we don't feel or walk around as strangers in the same way a generation of Vietnam veterans did."
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That was the powerful message Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Baldwinson had for the assembled crowed at his hometown on Anzac Day.
"In the past 18 years more than 30,000 Australian Defence Force personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan where we have seen 42 deaths, but unfortunately the figure is five times that number of people who have taken their lives since they've returned," he said.
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Lt Col Baldwinson is a Commanding Officer and Chief Instructor at the Australian Army's School of Health. He spent his childhood in Narromine, attending St Augustine's Parish School and working on the farm.
Lt Col Baldwinson has since spent 27 years in the Australian Army, including deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He said there was no doubt the experience had changed him.
"Not just because of some of the terrible things I, or my mates, might have seen. But more importantly like carrying a weapon around 24/7, remaining at a state of hypervigillence at months on end and being away from your family is tough, especially when you're away for six or none months at a time," Lt Col Baldwinson said.
However, he said it wasn't just the defence personnel who had to make sacrifices.
Families had to move every few years, kids had to change schools and spouses had to get new jobs, Lt Col said. In his 27 years of service, the officer said he had spent 12 away from home.
"While I, and other veterans, have chosen this life of service to this country like so many others it's not without sacrifice and I think it's important to acknowledge the important part that families play in supporting defence personnel," Lt Col Baldwinson said.
Anzac Day is a time to remember those who have served. There are 102,000 Australia names on the Wall of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial.
"For younger generations it's sometimes difficult to understand why it is with gratitude that we should remember. Yet we enjoy the benefits of peace and the easy existence which was purchased at the cost of many lives," Lt Col Baldwinson said.
"Few of us had ever had to risk everything ourselves or chance our loved ones to the dangers of war but for older generations of Australians remembering such thing is easy. War and death came far too frequently in their lives."
Lt Col Baldwinson finished his address with one more request.
"I hope that regardless of your background and whether you have links to the military or not that we all might use the threads of the sacrifices by service personnel to strengthen the fabric of the nation," he said.
"That we might live our lives with the same courage, with the same loyalty and the same fairness and compassion for those less fortunate then ourselves and set and example for the generations of Australians yet to come."
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