Australians asked to buy a beer for soldiers' sake

Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:01am EDT
 
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australians are being asked to buy a beer in honor of soldiers and sailors deployed to overseas troublespots in a new remembrance campaign designed to raise money for veteran support groups.

The "Raise a Glass" appeal, which starts on Wednesday, aims to raise A$1 million ($679,000) to help the families of servicemen and women killed in war.

Former Australian military commander Peter Cosgrove said the new appeal was designed around the military tradition of leaving an empty glass to honor absent friends.

Over the past 20 years, growing numbers of Australians have been flocking to services on Australia's official veteran's day, ANZAC day, which commemorates the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp's ill-fated landing at Gallipoli in 1915.

"I'm sure people haven't forgotten ANZAC day. In fact in some ways, the interest in memorial occasions like ANZAC day has gone through the roof," Cosgrove told Reuters.

Since 1999, Australia's military has been running at its busiest operational tempo since the Vietnam War era, with about 2,500 personnel deployed on overseas missions, including about 1,100 in Afghanistan, 650 in East Timor and 140 deployed to the Solomon Islands.

But opinion polls show Australians are wary about sending more troops to Afghanistan, after two Australian soldiers were killed there in the past month, taking to 10 the number of Australian soldiers slain since late 2001.

The Raise Glass will raise money from donations, and from beer sales at selected hotels.

($1=A$1.47)

(Editing by James Grubel and Miral Fahmy)