Medal strip threat: 40,000 Aussies fight to save soldiers
The nation's embattled Special Forces have received public reinforcements in their campaign to retain a unit citation medal the head of the Australian Defence Force wants to strip from them for the alleged sins of a few.
A live petition has attracted more than 40,000 signatures since going live this week after ADF chief General Angus Campbell announced the Special Operations Task Group Afghanistan citation would be taken off up to 3000 current of former soldiers.
The stripping of the Meritorious Unit Citation (2007-2013) came after the ADF Inspector General's Brereton Inquiry referred 36 briefs to the Australian Federal Police for alleged war crimes by Special Forces including 23 unlawful deaths and two acts of cruelty.
General Campbell has told the Governor-general the citation should be revoked as a "collective responsibility" on the basis that the allegations by a few meant the whole unit did not show a "sustained outstanding service" as the citation requires.
The multi-decorated former 2 Commando Regiment commander Heston Russell and colleague Scott Evennett yesterday visited the Australian War Memorial for formally announce a public petition.
"It really is incredible the support we are getting, already 40,000 in less than five days and there's a comment section there too on the voiceofaveteran.org site and we have received more than 25,000 comments," he said.
Mr Russell said the overwhelming support for the Diggers by the public was in contrast to that showed by ADF chiefs including the likes of former ADF chief Admiral Chris Barrie who called for SAS Regiment Afghanistan exhibits be removed from the Australian War Memorial.
He said it was heart breaking to see children asking "Daddy are you a murderer?" of their soldier fathers with the carte blanche accusation being levelled at the Australian military.
He said stripping medals included from the families of fallen soldiers which was a national disgrace and the public were right to be outraged.
"It's not the material impact but the emotional impact … the collateral damage has not been taken into account," he said, adding 600 veterans had taken their own life since the Afghanistan campaign began in 2001.
Darwin-based Ray Palmer, father of 27-year-old 2 Commando Private Scott Palmer who was killed in action in 2010, said he was buoyed by the public support to see the citation not stripped from the thousands who received the citation.
"It will be a hard one to beat but the support has been great," he said.
"It really is a slap in the face, its saying the whole Special Forces group don't deserve it and you can't say that really," he said.
The Defence all-hours Support Line is a confidential telephone and online service for ADF members and their families 1800 628 036.
Open Arms provides 24-hour free and confidential counselling and support for current and former ADF members and their families 1800 011 046, or through SafeZone on 1800 142 072.
Originally published as Medal strip threat: 40,000 Aussies fight to save soldiers