25 April 2024

Weipa veteran reflects on service, Anzac Day importance

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Gemma Shaw

Weipa-based Navy veteran Gemma Shaw says she is proud of her community’s engagement in Anzac Day commemorations. Photo: Supplied.

Weipa resident Gemma Shaw was just a teenager when she saw the events of September 11 in 2001 and decided she wanted to join the military.

Ten years after being discharged, the veteran reflected on how the experience shaped her, and the sacrifices of those who inspired her.

Ms Shaw enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in 2008 as a combat systems operator and was sent to the Middle East the following year.

Even before joining the Navy, she attended Anzac Day dawn services and said she was proud to see younger generations supporting and learning about the commemoration each 25 April.

“For a small town, Weipa gets a large portion of its population that will go to dawn service in the morning, and that is something I’m very happy to see, because Weipa has a very young demographic,” she said.

“It’s really great each year that we see a lot of young kids marching in the dawn service parade, and young families teaching their children what Anzac Day means and why we do it.”

READ ALSO Local soldiers beam with pride at Anzac Day service

Ms Shaw said, for her, Anzac Day was an opportunity to reflect on her own time in the military, those she worked with, and those who served before her.

“It’s a chance to express our gratitude and reflect on our soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women from World War 1 and World War 2 for their sacrifices,” she said.

“We did lose people in Afghanistan, but when you look at some of the documentaries from [the world wars], there were millions of lives lost, and it scares me to think about if that was to happen today.”

As a single woman with no children at the time, a humble Ms Shaw said she never viewed her own service as a sacrifice.

“There were many people that were married with young children, and spending months away from their families and missing milestones of their kids growing up,” she said.

“I was quite free in that regard, so I see it more as I had the ability to serve my country and I’m very grateful that I was able to do that,” she said.

READ ALSO Vietnam veteran reflects on his service after 50 years

This Anzac Day, Ms Shaw said she hoped people would respect not only the work of veterans, but each other as well.

“Especially with the violence that’s occurring in the world at the moment, it would be great to reflect on everything that has happened in the past and choose to be kind to each other,” she said.

In Weipa, the Weipa RSL sub-branch will host an Anazc Day march and service at the cenotaph in Rocky Point.

The parade will commence as 5:25am, with the service scheduled for 5:30am.

A gunfire breakfast will be held at the conclusion of the service.

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