Anzac Day through the eyes of a woman in the defence force
Wing Commander Cheryl Neal is a descendent of the Darug and Yuin people. Born in Nowra, NSW she joined the Royal Australian Air Force in April 1987.
‘When I first joined the Air Force I was very homesick and didn’t think I would last till the end of recruit training, but I did,’ she said.
Thirty years on, Cheryl is a Wing Commander, a senior rank in the Royal Australian Air Force, having served in the Middle East and the United Kingdom.
‘In 2012 I was posted to Headquarters Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East. My job was basically tracking and looking after Australian Defence Force members on the deployment.
‘It was very humbling, and at times emotional reading the reports about what our men and women had done to serve our country.’
Following her Middle East deployment she was awarded a Chief of Joint Operations Gold Commendation for her efforts.
As Anzac Day approached Cheryl reflects on what the Day means for her.
‘For me Anzac Day is about paying tribute to all current and former members of the Australian Defence Force.
‘Each year I try to visit the War Memorial and learn about a veteran that I haven’t heard of before.
“Last year I was really moved by the story of FSGT Arnold Lockyer. Lockyer was an Aboriginal airman and a member of a Liberator bomber crew that crashed near Japan at the end of WWII.
‘He survived the crash and became a POW but was killed several days after the war had actually ended.’
Wing Commander Neal is currently the inaugural Deputy Director Military Recruiting – Defence Force Recruiting, residing in Canberra with her family.
Note: Cheryl is the key note speaker at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commemorative Ceremony on Anzac Day at the Aboriginal War Memorial stone on the lower slopes of Mount Ainslie, Canberra. The ceremony begins at 6:30am.