Operation Slipper Welcome Home parade marks end of Afghanistan commitment

Chief Petty Officer Damian Tawlenko with wife Michelle and sons Cristian, 7, and Darcy, 21 months. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams Families of Defence personnel who died during Operation Slipper lay wreaths at the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams
Nanjing Night Net

Members of the Royal Australian Navy march along George Street on Saturday. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

Three tours of duty in Afghanistan have taught Chief Petty Officer Damian Pawlenko the value of family and the Australian lifestyle.

“I’ve learned I’ll never take anything for granted again,” CPO Pawlenko said at the Welcome Home parade in Sydney on Saturday, which marked the end of Operation Slipper.

He marched with the navy contingent, watched by wife Michelle and sons Cristian, 7, and Darcy, 21 months.

About 9000 army, navy and air force personnel, Australian Federal Police and Public Service employees marched through the city, taking the same route along George Street as veterans will take in five weeks to mark the Centenary of Anzac.

Operation Slipper proved to be Australia’s longest military operation, stretching from 2001 to 2014. It saw 34,500 Australians deployed to Afghanistan.

The families of the 41 Australians killed in Afghanistan during the operation were guests of honour at the ceremony.

They listened as the names of their husbands, fathers and brothers were read out, and laid wreathes at the war memorial in Hyde Park.

A further 262 Australians suffered serious injuries during Operation Slipper.

Mr Pawlenko was first deployed in 2006 on HMAS Manoora and then twice more on the ground in Afghanistan at Tarinkot, the staging base where he worked in public affairs and from which he went outside the wire.

As well as missing his family, he said conditions could be extremely uncomfortable in the height of summer.

“When you are out there you realise what a good lifestyle we have in Australia. You come home and realise that you are never going to take it for granted again.”

His thoughts were echoed by Commander Damien Scully-O’Shea, who spent more than nine months away from home in Dubai and Afghanistan.

His wife, Casey, and daughters Isla, 7 and Josie, 5, watched him march through the city.

“It was the longest time I was away from home in my 20 years in the navy,” he said.

“The worse thing about being away is missing your family. The best thing is the meaningful work.

“I think we have made a difference.”

Army Sergeant Derek Isted, 43, was deployed to Afghanistan twice, both times for seven months.

“You miss having normalcy in your life, just being able to go and watch the football on the weekend.

“But it’s a bit sad in a way it’s finishing,” he said about the end of Operation Slipper.

“It’s a bit like being a teacher and not being allowed to go in the classroom.

“But we help to make a lot of people safe.”

Vietnam veteran Tom Campbell, 70, of Campbelltown, came into the city to watch the parade, carrying a sign welcoming home those marching and thanking them for their efforts.

“We used the slogan Welcome Home which we didn’t get,” said Mr Campbell who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.

“We had to wait until 1987 when we organised our own Welcome Home parade.

“A lot of young soldiers and sailors have come up today and said thanks very much for welcoming them home.”

Following the march, a commemoration service was held at the Shrine of Remembrance in Hyde Park.

Treasurer Joe Hockey, representing Prime Minister Tony Abbott, told the service personnel that their role in Afghanistan had been extremely important to Australians and the people of Afghanistan.

“You have given a proud nation the ability to defend themselves and take control of their lives.

“Australians do not fight to conquer, they fight to help,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments are currently closed.