By Melissa Sheil
FORMER Navy serviceman and Kalamunda RSL senior vice president Phil Twiss says Remembrance Day is not about remembering the wars fought, but celebrating those who fought in them.
“That’s a good thing about Australia, we choose to remember these people – what they did and accomplished, rather than the war victories or outcomes,” he said.
“The 11th of November is about honouring the men and women who put up everything.
“There’s something of a debt of gratitude owed by us there, for not only those who died, but those that fought and came back, those who were left behind, the bonds they had and made and the work they did.”
Mr Twiss, who signed up at age 16, served in the Navy as a fitter and machinist, marine technician and leading seamen for seven years, spending much of his tenure completing diplomatic work and interacting with foreign forces for relief aid.
One such instance was assisting in the clean-up, rebuild and rehabilitation after the Mount Pinatubo volcano erupted in the Philippines in 1991, the second largest volcanic eruption of the 21st century and biggest to hit a densely populated area.
As a part of disaster relief effort, Mr Twiss’ crew evacuated indigenous people who lived at the top of the mountains to safety, helped remove the huge amounts of ash that had collapsed many structures and rebuilt the hospital to cater for all of the injured.
Mr Twiss said that though these operations were often hard, the work was worth it.
“I really enjoyed being out there deployed and helping people,” he said.
“You learn a lot about yourself and the world.
“You’re exhausted and shattered but that’s when the best of people really comes out.
“I’ve found that most people shine under pressure, that when they’re pushed to their limit physically or emotionally, they still come through.”
Having retired from the Navy in 1994 and serving in the army reserves for three years afterwards, Mr Twiss now uses his time working as an oil and gas manager, spending time with his partner and eight children at home in Lesmurdie and fundraising with the RSL and Legacy projects.
“The RSL is a bit strange because even though we’re all different ages, from different backgrounds and arms of the defence force, we all speak the same language,” he said.
“We’ve all been through similar things and I felt very welcomed and accepted.
“The defence force is very uniting as you know that at some point, all of us signed our names on a blank cheque that said you would give your life to your country, and no matter whether you survived or not, the sacrifice intention was made.”
Mr Twiss intends to advocate for more mental health resources to be provided to returned service people and is looking into starting a service to call isolated members for a chat every two weeks to ensure they are supported and have someone to speak to.
Kalamunda RSL will host its Remembrance Day service next Thursday, November 11 at the Cenotaph on Canning Road at 11am, followed by morning tea at the Kalamunda RSL Hall building across the street.