This ANZAC Day we remember our soldiers, our nurses and all the people involved in the war effort, for contributing their lives to save their country and their people, to preserve their freedoms and identity, and that of future generations. It’s a day of the year that acts as a living memorial for all those who sacrificed their own lives and freedoms in order prevent their countrymen having to endure suffering under the hands of their enemies. We are living in a peaceful and prosperous society thanks to their courage. Lest We Forget.
Yet sometimes we do forget. Sometimes the memory of our veterans is treated unjustly and denied the respect they deserve. Sometimes this is all in favour of following questionable laws and irrational actions. This is nowhere more clear than in Graham “Bill” Ashby, a Vietnam War veteran who passed away on Tuesday 18th April, who sacrificed his life for Australians and South Vietnamese alike, and for the free world in general.
Bill lost his life suffering a stroke during a flight to Vietnam “for their annual trip to visit the villages and people they loved,” as stated by his grandson. Bill and his wife perform this pilgrimage-like trip to the country every year because this was the “only way he could reconcile with what he witnessed in the past”. His name will live on through the pages of history for his willingness to sacrifice his livelihood to protect that of his people, and of those in exotic lands where many of our soldiers lost their lives.
But this is not where it ends, it is now that this story becomes truly heart-breaking. Despite being a veteran of one of the most gruesome wars Australian soldiers fought in, Bill is not being treated with the dignity and respect he deserves by his own state. Bill’s family has been denied any help from the government for his funeral expenses despite doing the same for all other veterans. Their reasoning? Simply because Bill was not physically present in Australia. A man who went into war to allow our country to remain safe and prosperous for generations to come has been denied this one simply act of kindness.
The Australian Government’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs states the following regarding its Funeral Benefit: “A Funeral Benefit may be granted to a person responsible for the funeral expenses in respect of: a veteran or former member of the forces…who died in needy circumstances”. Did Bill not die in needy circumstances? Is his death not good enough for the Australian Government simply because he passed away outside Australian territory? These are the questions that seek to address this situation’s disgrace.
To make matters worse, a certain individual has lodged a report on Bill for apparently holding firearms. In a day and age where the right to self-defence and freedom are under oppression, this complaint got more than it deserved. The police, who were only following the law, were quick to investigate Bill’s house, confiscate everything and leave it all in a mess. Is this the treatment Bill deserves? Those with a moral conscience will be quick to express their disgust.
As Bill’s grandson states: “Because Bill died in Vietnam (where he fought anyway) they want our family to pay for everything. This is an absolutely disgusting way to treat our veterans. To add salt to our already deep wounds the government sent police and raided our house. They flipped it upside down and it was a traumatic experience for us all. Especially my grandmother who could not understand why these men were taking away all of her husbands collectable items. The same items that she would remember him by. Gone.”
Bill never applied for veteran’s pension in his life, even though he deserved it and much more. Yet he has been denied the respect, dignity and appreciation he so deserves. Bill’s grandson has established a Go Fund Me fundraiser to help with the funeral costs his family will have to pay themselves. It has already raised $1250, but we need more. We implore all our readers to consider supporting Bill and his family during this time of tragedy. Let us enhance our appreciation for our soldiers this ANZAC Day, and make a financial contribution to a veteran who deserves to leave this world with dignity and respect. It is the least we can do to be grateful for our armed forces whose actions preserve this society we take for granted.