By Peter Douglas
Emerald residents turned out in force to pay their respects on Remembrance Day on Saturday 11 November.
Amid a sea of poppies and a host of dignitaries – including La Trobe MP Jason Wood and Cardinia Shire Mayor Brett Owen- Emerald RSL President Peter Maloney led a moving tribute.
Emerald Primary School, Emerald Guides and many other community representatives were on-hand for the day, too.
Mr Maloney encouraged all to join in the occasion.
“Today, we remember and pay our respects. We remember all Australians who lay down their lives for our country,” Mr Maloney said.
“We remember those we lost in conflict. We remember the Emerald men and women who didn’t get back to their beautiful town.”
Attendees arrived with poppies in hand and ready to lay wreaths, with Emerald RSL member Alan Ashmore delivering a heartfelt keynote speech.
“I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to comprehend the Australian loss of life on the battlefield in World War I and II,” Mr Ashmore said.
“Six weeks ago, I was at the MCG for the AFL grand final … picture that stadium full, the loss of life was greater than that crowd.”
Mr Ashmore also shone a light on the troubles modern-day veterans face on a daily basis.
He noted many veterans of conflicts such as in Afghanistan are taking their life at a greater rate than any generations of veterans before them.
“The annual suicide rate of post 1990 veterans is seven times higher … so what’s the cause and why,” Mr Ashmore said.
“The last one was just last Tuesday.”
Mr Ashmore said more support was urgently needed for modern-day veterans, both in regards to their mental health and their transition to civilian life.
After the speech and ceremony, guests were invited to tour Emerald’s Avenue of Honour, which tells the story of Emerald’s 32 soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.