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21 April 2022
As a chaplain, Captain Alexis, centre, is an integral part of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Teaching our children the meaning behind Anzac Day traditions
When I became a Salvos officer (pastor) in 2012, I had no idea where it would take me. If you had said I would get the opportunity to serve communities within the Salvos and my country with the Royal Australian Air Force, I would have asked you where on earth that fitted in as a mum of (almost) four!
While I am still not sure how we fit everything in, I get to put on my blue camo uniform and help defence members every day. This makes me extraordinarily happy, and I am honoured to stand with those who give so much of themselves for us all.
As a mum, I have always wanted to do something with my life that would make my children proud and teach them that service to others is an honour. They know that not everyone’s mummy gets to do what I do, but my daughter especially, who is now eight years old, learnt two years ago a little bit more, thanks to our continued lockdowns in Victoria.
In 2020, right at the start of this crazy pandemic, it was with great sadness that the chaplaincy team at RAAF Base Williams was told that our usual Anzac Day activities could not go ahead. We had a dawn service planned and were all set to march, alongside our squadron, as is tradition.
Feeling a little deflated and wondering how we could draw people’s attention to the planned ‘live-streamed’ service, something that seemed so new and different at the time, I turned to the only thing I knew would make me feel better – baking!
Within hours I had been to the supermarket, bought ingredients, and had the plan to bake Anzac biscuits to be included in a pack with the service details and a candle for the inaugural driveway vigil. I thought the kids would love to help me in the kitchen since they were stuck at home anyway. I imagine my shock when ‘Mr four’ walked away two minutes in to play elsewhere!
Lillian, who was six at the time, gravitated to the idea instantly. What ensued was half a day together, baking, answering her questions about Anzac Day and the start of what has become a growing understanding for her of these lands we now call Australia.
She saw the whole baking process through, including packaging, and then asked if she could come with me to do deliveries to not only my Salvo colleagues, family, and friends but also the 150 biscuits we had baked for those who were in lockdown on base (all done in a COVID-19 safe, socially distanced way, of course).
In total, 200 packs were delivered and to this day, I am known as the Anzac biscuit chaplain with the adorable assistant. What she learned that year is still talked about, and she was so proud of what we achieved.
Not everyone gets to do what I do or is allowed to walk onto a secure military base, but that doesn’t mean we can’t teach our children just why we do what we do every 25 April. Schools do an excellent job educating the next generation and celebrating in their own ways, but what we say at home is just as important.
With my younger children, this means yearly readings of books like Anzac Ted by Belinda Landsberry, Meet the Anzacs by Claire Saxby, or My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day by Catriona Hoy; eating copious amounts of biscuits; and telling them stories of those we love who have served their country.
Whatever your views on war, and regardless of the presence of children or serving members in your life and families or not, I pray that this Anzac Day you might find ways to pause and reflect on the amazing country we live in, and the privilege that is ours to live in peace and safety.
Lest we Forget.
Eternal God, the only source of peace,
We pray for all who serve in the Defence Force of this land. Give them courage and comfort in danger, patience in waiting, and discipline in the just use of force.
Help us to seek for all people the freedom to serve you and each other in compassion and peace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Captain Alexis McKeand is a Salvos officer, and Flight Lieutenant and Chaplain in the Royal Australian Air Force.