A new hope: Toowoomba RSL banks hopes on younger members
AS THE world stops this Remembrance Day to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice that ended the First World War on 11 November 1918, the Toowoomba United RSL sub-branch is looking forward with hope.
In the four years of The Great War, The War to End All Wars, more than 330,000 Australians served overseas, and almost 62,000 of them died.
Toowoomba's Mother's Memorial was, of course, built out of the love of mothers and the community for the sons who did not come home, and will again be the site of this year's Remembrance Day service from 10.30am.
For all those who have served their country in the years since, the 100th anniversary has a special meaning.
Having joined the army in 2007 and served in Afghanistan, Malaysia and Darwin, Brad Donald is one of the new generation of ex-service people remembering mates and the fallen.
"I will take this time to reflect not only on my family who served in the First and Second World Wars, but also my friends who have served in any aspect of the ADF since.
"This is a moment for the world to stop and reflect," Brad said.
Club treasurer Huey James said Remembrance and Anzac Days were a time to remember everyone involved in wars.
"It is important to reflect upon everyone, not just the soldiers, sailors, airmen or heroes but every single person who has been touched by war over the past 100 years," he said.
Club president Lindsay Morrison and vice-president Roland Thompson paid tribute to their own families' contributions to "our way of life and how wonderful it is to know that they have not been forgotten"; thankful for all those over the years who have returned safely, remembering the sacrifices of those who did not and the important part played by those on the homefront.
With 340 of Toowoomba United RSL's 380 members now over the age of 80, Brad is pleased that older members - particularly ex-Vietnam vets - have reached out the hand of welcome to younger ex-Defence personnel to breathe new life and relevance into the RSL.
"We've got a big job ahead of us, but we're not afraid of a challenge," Brad said.
The first step was to simply let everyone know they were welcome and that the RSL was not just "an old boys club".
The club, at the corner of Herries and Ruthven Sts, will be open after the Remembrance Day ceremony and is regularly open 9am-12pm Monday to Friday and Friday evenings from 5-8pm (entry via rear door on Graham St), with a courtesy bus available on request.
Brad said it was important that the RSL reflected Toowoomba's strong military history and defence presence throughout the years and to this day.
And that's something that's starting to happen.
Joe Treers, at 96, is at the club each day to greet and talk to all-comers in person, while the Toowoomba United RSL Facebook site provides another welcome, with followers growing from 81 to 300 in just a month, and reaching in excess of 2000 people.
"It's important to have this place where you can go for a yarn with like-minded people; people who have the same sort of experiences," Brad said.
"It's somewhere you can hang out, pay-out on each other, but also support each other... because that's the Defence mentality - that's what we like to do, and that hasn't changed over the years," he said.
To find out more about the club, phone (07)46323506 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.