Sacrifice and danger are constant shadows every defence member must live with

garth callender editorial article

At any one time, more than 80,000 Australian men and women have written blank cheques to the nation to ensure our peace and prosperity.

These members of the Australian Defence Forces do so in the knowledge that these blank cheques can be called in when the nation goes to war and they are exposed to violence and, often, humanity at its worst.

This week has been a dark week for the nation and the Defence Force. It has been a tragic reminder that those cheques can also be cashed during training when equally, all is put on the line.

The training is necessarily harsh and realistic to ensure our soldiers, sailors and aviators are best prepared for warfare when the national need emerges.

The loss of four army aircrew members – Captain Dan Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Alex Naggs – when their helicopter crashed during military training exercises off the Queensland coast is a harsh reminder what Australians risk in service of this nation. It is a bitter reminder.

Every nation that chooses to have a standing military does so as part of a national risk management strategy. They manage risk through the ability to apply force in pursuit and protection of their national interests.

The risk to Australia’s sovereignty and it interests are managed, in part, by our Defence Force through training events like Exercise Talisman Sabre.

These exercises play a critical part in providing for the collective security and peace of the region in which we live.

Sacrifice and danger are constant shadows every defence member must live with. From your first to your last day in the uniform there is no such thing as a risk-free day. And the moment the nation forgets this stark fact, tragedies like the catastrophic helicopter crash painfully remind us.

But it can never be forgotten that these individuals do not just personally assume the risks of the nation. Rather, in volunteering to be part of our military, they also assume risk on behalf of their families. Spouses, parents, children and siblings (including the military brothers and sisters that they adopt). 

It is all those family members who our hearts go out to.

Veterans’ charity Bravery Trust which I Chair was established as part of that calculated risk strategy to support those who are injured or sustain illness during service.

We have a clear and defined role in helping the community understand the challenges faced by veterans and their families, and nurturing the ethos that pride, gratitude and respect for our veterans is everybody’s responsibility.

Garth Callender was one of the first casualties medically evacuated out of Iraq when his armoured vehicle was the target of a roadside bomb, and he later served in Afghanistan. Throughout his 25-year military career he served with distinction in combat, intelligence, training and strategic roles. He is the author of After the Blast, which chronicles his military deployment and recovery from the attack in Baghdad in 2004; and Best Possible Outcome.

Garth is the Chair of Bravery Trust, we are a national military charity supporting Australian Defence Force veterans and their families with financial support. Our service is free to current or ex-serving members of the ADF  – call 1800 BRAVERY or email

Supporting Those Who Serve

Bravery Trust
Bravery Trust