Remembrance Day – Alleys reflect on their role as RSL chaplains
Australians around the country will honour Remembrance Day today (11 November). Salvos Online spoke to retired Salvation Army officers Colonels Julie and Kelvin Alley about their current roles as RSL chaplains and their personal link to the Australian Defence Force.
What does Remembrance Day mean to you both?
For Julie and I, it is a very significant day when we have the opportunity to pause, reflect and express gratitude for those of our nation who have given their lives in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Historically, it is the day we commemorate the end of the First World War, but over the years, it has come to be the opportunity to remember those who have served our nation in all theatres of world conflicts.
Do you think the day is being almost forgotten in Australia, and why is it important that we continue to recognise it?
It is certainly not almost forgotten, but perhaps it doesn’t get the same media attention as, say Anzac Day. For us, it remains just as significant because of our close involvement and participation every year in Remembrance Day services. The day is not a public holiday as in the case of Anzac Day, which doesn’t give the general public the same sense of awareness or opportunity for involvement. The RSL clubs continue to liaise with schools in order to maintain awareness amongst our younger generations of the importance of this day.
You and Julie are chaplains to the local RSL – why do you do this? What does this role entail, and what impact does it have – on yourselves as well as those you minister to?
When we retired just over three years ago, we were asked if we would accept this role with the Runaway Bay RSL Sub-Branch, which has had a very long association with the Gold Coast Temple Corps. We attend the monthly meeting of the club members, slowly getting to know the members more personally. Julie also attends the ladies’ luncheon each month, building relationships with each of the women. We preside as ‘padre’ at the significant commemoration services each year, which include two Anzac Day services and Remembrance Day, and numerous other special occasions. We have had the privilege of conducting funerals for deceased members, and related remembrance occasions. We also arrange an annual ‘Church Parade’ where we encourage as many club members and families as possible to attend a special service at our corps. For us, this is an honour and privilege, to support those who have served in our nation’s uniform.
What are some of the challenges returned servicemen and women face?
The members of the RSL club tend to be older, those who have served in World War Two, Korea and Vietnam conflicts, or who have given service in the forces over those same decades. They face the challenges of ageing, of health struggles and even mobility issues. Those who have served in more recent decades face significant challenges in the transition from service life to lives as civilians. These can range from emotional struggles due to traumatic experiences, finding and maintaining suitable employment, maintaining relationships, especially marriage, homelessness, substance abuse and gambling issues.
Kelvin, can you tell us about your cycling trips that fundraise for returned personnel – again, why you do this and the impact these donations have?
Since 2006, I have been part of the ‘Pollie Pedal’ (an annual bike ride of 1000km over eight days, started by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 1998 as a means of getting politicians out and doing something active to benefit the community. Each year, the Pollie Pedal raises huge sums for charity, which over the years now total many millions of dollars. For the past five years, we have supported the charity ‘Soldier On’, which supports veterans and their families. This year, we will be riding for ‘Wandering Warriors’, a smaller charity that supports veterans and families of our Special Forces. The ride will start in Perth.
In 2021, the Pollie Pedal was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, so I decided to have my own ‘Solo Pollie Pedal’ – I rode 1500km self-supported through the Darling Downs and Central Queensland, and raised $10,500 from 105 wonderful sponsors! In recent weeks, I did a similar ride, raising almost $1500 for Wandering Warriors.
How can Australians help support both serving and returning members of the Australian Defence Force?
Julie and I would encourage all Australians to show their support for the special commemorative days each year – to turn out in force for Anzac Services, and other services such as Remembrance Day. The RSL goes public twice annually with sales of poppies and other commemorative items such as badges. The public is encouraged to support these as much as possible. Older generations can encourage the younger generations to continue the respect and honour that has been given in past generations and to be sensitive to the unique and challenging circumstances that are involved in service in our defence forces.
Do you have a personal connection to the ADF?
Our son is a triple veteran of ADF service in Afghanistan. As parents, we have experienced the emotions when a son is sent overseas to dangerous war zones for his tours of duty. We have experienced those moments when news comes over the radio of another ‘incident’ involving an ADF member, and the long wait, not knowing whether it is our son. We know that moment of relief when we have it confirmed that it is not our son, but then the realisation hits that it is indeed the son of other parents. Tears then flow anyway.