As she steps up to recite John McCrae’s moving poem In Flanders Fields on Anzac Day, Kath Evans will pause for a moment to reflect on those who’ve gone before.
The Samford RSL Sub-branch member has been practicing the poem, taking her time to give each word meaning and is proud to be given the honour as a woman.
“We’re just so very proud because the community really gets behind us, showing their respect for the fallen and those affected by service and war,” Kath says.
“It’s kind of like mixed emotions as you march up the hill.
“The overarching feeling is pride, because I’m proud to be recognised, and on the other hand it’s humbling because we’re put in the same basket as the original Anzacs.
“I can’t imagine the courage it would have taken to go over the wall, knowing you’re likely to be mortally wounded, let alone the mental side of things.
“There’s a lot of emotion that comes up during a service – I’m often moved to tears listening to the service in person or watching it on TV – those guys that were sacrificed so young.
“I often say ‘Lest we forget’ and I am just so proud because we have not forgotten.”
Retiring from the Army in 2012 with the rank of Captain, Kath enlisted as an 18-year-old.
She’d left school at Year 10, polishing her shorthand and typing and becoming a secretary, which she hated.
Kath dreamt of following in her mum’s footsteps and becoming a nurse but couldn’t without a Year 12 qualification.
“I joined the Army to train as a medic and went up through the ranks and became a theatre nurse and did my degree part-time.”
She worked in theatre and intensive care, with her final deployment in Afghanistan.
Kath’s main postings were in Brisbane and Sydney, with time in Canberra at the tri-service hospital for the Army, Navy and Airforce at Duntroon.
“When I retired, I was physically and mentally burnt out – the Army takes its toll on your body and your mind.
“The highs and lows are extreme and I think you’re bonded knowing others have been through the same thing – there’s a mutual respect.
“There were very few women on my Sergeants’ course in the late ’80s. I was one of about five girls and there were 60 guys.
“You had to be clever as a girl because if you didn’t laugh along with the sexist jokes you were ostracised and you needed their help because everything was teamwork.
“It was a man’s world, so you had to fit in.”
In Kath’s recruitment course one girl attempted suicide because she couldn’t cope with the pressure.
Despite the challenges she faced, coping by “soldiering on”, Kath values the Anzac spirit, epitomised by endurance, courage, mateship, ingenuity and good humour.
“Mateship is what keeps people going,” she says.
“Courage and mateship, that’s the overarching thing.
“That’s what shines out for me; I am inspired by their courage and spurred on by mateship.
“You just become mates by proxy, by default, because you served together there’s a rapport there.
“There’s something extraordinary about service. I think it’s the hardships you endure.
“Those virtues have sort of brought me strength.”
The Samford RSL Sub-Branch has an affiliation with one of the units at the Enoggera Army Barracks, which will take part in the 8am service on Anzac Day.
The March starts at 7.45 am, travelling from the Samford Rangers Soccer Club to the Samford Avenue of Honour between Burton Lane and the soccer grounds, with the service starting at 8am.