For a veteran of Timor-Leste, unconditional love makes the memories easier

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Hundreds gathered at the Shrine in Melbourne on Saturday to pause and remember those who served and those who died in wars and peacekeeping operations.

James Farquharson was among the veterans taking part in the Remembrance Day service at the Shrine. The former lance corporal read from the Ode of Remembrance and laid a wreath.

Veteran James Farquharson was accompanied by his service dog, Peggy, during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Shrine.Credit: Eddie Jim

Farquharson served more than 14 years in the reserve and the regular army, including deployment in Timor-Leste in 2002-03, and had service dog Peggy by his side on Saturday, her regular spot for more than three years.

Twenty-one years ago, on November 11, he stepped off the plane at Dili airport in Timor-Leste to begin his tour.

“You’re flooded with memories, and they are sometimes difficult,” he said. “It’s vital that we have occasions like this where we come together as a community with no divide. These are the types of activities that unite us.”

The Shrine’s terrace.Credit: Eddie Jim

Farquharson said Peggy was provided by Dogs for Life and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“She gives that wonderful and unconditional love anytime that I need it,” he said. “She will also interrupt me if I’m getting a bit agitated, if I’m having nightmares, and she’s also helped me get very fit.”

A lone bugler played the Last Post on the Shrine’s terrace at 11am before attendees paused for a minute of silent reflection on the more than 100,000 Australians who have died in conflict. Members of the Shrine’s guard raised its flags to the masthead as Reveille played out, signalling the firing of a gun from the war memorial sanctuary.

Victorian Governor Margaret Gardner laid a wreath at the Shrine before pigeons were released from its upper balcony, symbolising Australia’s commitment to peace brought by the signing of the armistice to end World War I in 1918.

Hundreds were at the Shrine to lay wreaths and observe a minute’s silence.Credit: Eddie Jim

Premier Jacinta Allan and Veterans Minister Natalie Suleyman attended the annual service.

Suleyman said it was an honour to attend and pause to recognise the brave Australians who had served in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

The Melbourne ceremony was one of hundreds held across the country to mark 105 years since the end of World War I.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Governor-General David Hurley were among the hundreds who gathered to pay their respects at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

After the ceremony, Albanese said the country paused on November 11 to reflect and pay thanks to all those servicemen and women who are serving Australia now and those who served in the past.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese lays a wreath at the Australian War Memorial for Remembrance Day in Canberra.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“ ‘Lest we forget’ is Australia’s eternal promise to all those men and women who have worn our uniform, who defended our nation, defended our democracy, and risked their lives in order to preserve the Australian way of life,” he said.

Research suggested one in four Australians did not intend to mark Remembrance Day, but opposition veterans’ affairs spokesman Barnaby Joyce implored those people not to turn their backs, reminding them they would not be here without the troops.

“It is incredibly important people remember those that gave their lives, were maimed, lost their marriages, became psychologically disturbed and left their lives behind,” he said.

“We’re asked for one minute in return … it doesn’t have to be a big deal, just quietly stop and reflect.”

With AAP

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