Light shed on grim reality of war

Joondalup City RSL secretary Captain Bruce McDonald delivers his Anzac Day address at the City of Joondalup-RSL dawn service in Central Park. Picture: Stewart Allen
Joondalup City RSL secretary Captain Bruce McDonald delivers his Anzac Day address at the City of Joondalup-RSL dawn service in Central Park. Picture: Stewart Allen

THEY gathered in the dark, many parking in the shopping centre and walking across Grand Boulevard Drive.

The place of the annual Joondalup Festival weeks earlier now brimming with folk facing east towards the cenotaph for another Anzac Day Dawn Service in Central Park.

And then he spoke – of the dark, the “shadow of night that tenderly cloaks” and the darkness of war.

Keynote speaker Bruce McDonald, three-time Afghanistan tour of duty soldier, Joondalup City RSL secretary and Mullaloo resident.

“As we stand here together awaiting the dawn, the shadow of night tenderly cloaks each of us in a comforting sanctuary of darkness,” Captain McDonald said.

“In the early hours before the dawn we are drawn from our private homes to gather here as a community of ordinary strangers united by the actions of extraordinary strangers who fought for their mates, their lives and their country.”

At Gallipoli, he said, the shadow of darkness may have shielded the approaching Anzacs from the enemy but also hid the treacherous peril that lay in wait.

And in Afghanistan, the shadow of night which offered protection equally exposed vulnerability.

“I have lived in such a place where… both security and vulnerability arrived with the darkness of nightfall,” he said.

“Where we deliberately ensure as much light as possible is extinguished to remove us from the view of those who would do us harm,” Captain McDonald said.

“I have witnessed the adrenalin-filled highs of survival as well as immense depths of despair at the loss of a mate.

“I have laughed reservedly at the often black-humoured stories of soldiers who photographed their legs before a patrol just in case they never saw them again. And face the reality of their need to loosely wear a tourniquet on each limb ready to stem the almost inevitable haemorrhage that could end their life…

“I have witnessed the strongest and finest reduced to flesh. And witnessed the death of innocence and a once-supposed sense of immortality.

“I have witnessed a helicopter deliver wounded soldiers from an IED blast where the floor of the helicopter was red with their blood. And the teams of specialist medical staff respond that all was going to be OK.”

City of Joondalup-Joondalup City RSL dawn service at Joondalup’s Central Park. “These are not the dead, such spirits never die,” Joondalup cenotaph inscription.Thousands attend services: bit.ly/2Wdb6Dy West Perth host Swans in Anzac memorial game: bit.ly/2DrgwDR

Posted by Joondalup-Wanneroo Times/Weekender on Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Capt McDonald pushed on when his voice caught and paused when an RAAF jet flew over.

He reminded the crowd of those who had returned from service with mental health issues before asking for reflection on “those
who had gone before us”.

And he implored: “As the dawn sheds light on the faces of the extraordinary strangers who stand beside you, contemplate that which they have done…

“So you may return to stand here each year in the darkness before the dawn.”

The catafalque party at the City of Joondalup and Joondalup City RSL dawn service in Central Park. Picture: Stewart Allen
Mel Crothers sings the NZ national anthem. Picture: Stewart Allen
Maurie Mayes at the Joondalup service with his son David and grandson Nathan Dean wearing several generations of family medals. Picture: Stewart Allen
Joondalup Freeman Bill Marwick, who laid a wreath, with wife Bernice after the dawn service. Picture: Stewart Allen

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