Anzac service supports infirm veterans

This article has photo gallery Published on POIS Phill Cullinan (author and photographer)

Location(s): Canberra Hospital

Topic(s): HMAS Harman, Centenary of Anzac, Ships, Boats and Submarines, Anzac Day, Health, Fitness and Wellbeing, 75th Anniversary

Members of HMAS Harman's gunnery department provided the Catafalque party during the Anzac service held at Canberra Hospital for patients who cannot make the Dawn service in Canberra. (photo: POIS Phil Cullinan)
Members of HMAS Harman's gunnery department provided the Catafalque party during the Anzac service held at Canberra Hospital for patients who cannot make the Dawn service in Canberra.

A promise between a group of Vietnam War vintage ex-service personnel to bring Anzac Day to the ill and infirm has come to fruition for the 15th year with a bespoke service at the Canberra Hospital.
 
The 'Dark & Stormies' are a group of veterans who came together during a course to assist those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and ended up having coffee every week at the hospital after the course had ended. 

Annually they convene a small Anzac service for patients who cannot make it to the normal Anzac Day ceremonies on 25 April.

With representatives from the United States Embassy, HMAS Harman, and the Australian Government, a solemn tribute was again paid to those who have contributed much in the service of the country on 19 April.

Ron Sheargold served in the Royal Australian Navy and is now the Master of Ceremonies for all of the Dark & Stormies' veterans functions.

He started his naval service as a stoker and ended as a Lieutenant Commander - but said one of his greatest pleasures was the Canberra Hospital event that for many replaced dawn services they were too ill to attend. 

"When we were meeting for coffee at Canberra Hospital, we saw many other veterans here and thought we should do something for Anzac Day for the patients who can't get out," Mr Sheargold said.

"We went to the hospital and spoke to a few people, and the hospital thought it was a great idea and supported us every step of the way.

"It started off very small to start with and has gradually become bigger and better than when we first started it as you can tell by the crowd that attends," he said

This year's service was attended by United States Defence Attaché, US Air Force Colonel Douglas Sachs.

In his opening address, he said the relationship between America and Australia was built on a foundation a century strong and Anzac Day was an important occasion to support each other as Allies.

"It has been 100 years since Australia and the United States first fought side by side and both countries have built a relationship due to our involvement in every major conflict since the First World War," he said.

Canberra Navy base, HMAS Harman also plays a major role in thie activity by providing a catafalque party and flag bearers for the service.

Able Seaman Marine Technician Seamus Mann was one of the sailors who provided support and was proud to help out.

"It was an honour to represent Harman as a catafalque party member," he said.
 
"It is a way of providing support to our veterans who are unable to make it to the dawn service in Canberra."

Those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are encouraged to seek support and can find more information at http://www.defence.gov.au/health/healthportal/PTSD.asp

If anyone feels that they need help, they can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or in an emergency, contact 000.