It’s impossible not to feel proud of our brave defence forces on Anzac Day, and moved by the huge sacrifices veterans have made to keep Australia safe.
But so many of the things we treasure about Anzac Day were missing this year – the togetherness of the dawn service at a local cenotaph, a beer and some two-up at the RSL, even the opportunity to give a few coins to the volunteers who collect donations for veterans’ charities down at the shops.
With all of our usual traditions called off due to the coronavirus, Aussies took a different approach to mark one of the most important days on the calendar this year. As well as holding their own dawn services from their driveways on April 25, one wonderful way people showed their deep respect for our veterans’ sacrifices was to help Legacy continue to help their beloved families.
You’ll probably recognise Legacy as one of the longest-standing Australian charities dedicated to supporting the people whose lives are touched by the Australian Defence Force. Since 1923, Legacy has been providing vital assistance to families suffering after the injury or death of a partner or parent during or after their service – something that’s only possible through donations made by generous Australians.
This year, though, with its collectors sidelined by social distancing restrictions, Legacy needs its supporters to donate online, by telephone or by mail instead, so great people like Brian Hollis can continue to help young Australians like James and Emily Wiltshire to live the life their late father, Major Michael Wiltshire, would’ve wanted for them.
Brian’s one of Legacy’s 4,000 volunteer ‘legatees’ who become mentors and friends to the families of late former servicemen and women. Brisbane kids Emily and James lost their dad, Michael, to brain cancer when James was just eight and Emily six. Michael was only 42 years old when he died – a death that left a gaping hole in the life of wife Kerrie and his children.
Former serviceman Brian knew how they felt. He lost his own father, who was also a member of the armed forces, when he was a child. And he had a special connection with the Wiltshires, having served as an engineer in the ADF alongside Michael. As their legatee, Brian was able to help Kerrie whenever she needed it, as well as support James and Emily in accessing the many services Legacy offers children of late veterans.
Those services include Legacy Camps for kids – an event Emily remembers being pivotal after losing her dad.
“I remember always feeling different at school, being the kid whose father had died,” she recalls. “By the end of that first Legacy Camp, I realised that everyone there had lost a parent who had served. From that day on, there was a real sense of finally being understood. At Legacy, I felt ‘normal’.”
James says the same. “You don’t have to explain yourself,” he says of the camaraderie he found at Legacy Christmas parties, camps and other activities. “You feel like you fit in.”
Brian wasn’t just there to help the Wiltshire children have fun – he helped guide them as Legacy offered the family financial support through James and Emily’s school years. The support Legacy provides the families of deceased or injured former servicemen and women includes grief counselling and mental health support, home care, outside-school care and much more.
Brian insists it’s been his privilege to support Major Michael Wiltshire’s family. “James and Emily are remarkable young people,” the Brisbane veteran says. “I’m very proud of them and have loved being there for them whenever they’ve needed me.”
The pair have done Brian – and their mum and late dad – very proud. James, now 24, is applying to join the Royal Australian Air Force. “I doubt I would’ve had the confidence to go for the air force if it wasn’t for the encouragement of Legacy,” he says.
At 22, Emily had been awarded one of Legacy’s highest honours for her own work on the educational and community activities Legacy operates – providing some of the almost 2,000 children currently supported by Legacy with the same loving guidance she received.
Without the strong role models Legacy provided, the future for James and Emily could have been far less bright. “It could’ve all gone so differently without Legacy’s support and influence,” James says.
There are two ways to ensure Legacy has the funding it needs to continue to help its 52,000 beneficiaries around Australia. One is to make a tax-deductible donation, either online, via telephone by calling 1800 534 229 or as a cheque or by credit card by mailing this form.
Another is to leave a bequest to Legacy in your will, which you can find out more about here.
As Legacy itself says, a gift of any size helps – and never more so than when vulnerable families and elderly military widows and widowers are unable to leave their homes. There really is no better time to show our veterans and their families how much we value them than right now.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.
This Anzac Day, we cannot commemorate like years gone by – but you can still help support those who rely on Legacy during these unprecedented times. Give a gift today that shows their sacrifice will never be forgotten.