A matter of honour

Defence Health member and retired Lieutenant Colonel Kim Duffy, reflects on his family’s deep and personal respect for one of Australia’s most sacred days.

With generations of soldiers in his family, it was not very surprising when Kim Duffy joined the Australian Army at age 19.

Kim’s great-grandfather had served in the British Army; his grandfather served at Gallipoli; and his father was an engineer with the besieged soldiers known as The Rats of Tobruk during World War II.

“The military was always talked about in my family,” says Kim. “I knew more about it than most people, but my enlistment, while not a strange thing to do, was never something that was a given.

“I told my grandfather I was thinking of going to Officer Cadet School at Portsea (Victoria). He was very encouraging and quietly proud,” says Kim.

Kim graduated as second-lieutenant and was immediately posted to Papua New Guinea. “It was an exciting time with enormous responsibility. I was only 20 years old and had 30 men under my command,” he says.

Kim gave 20 years of distinguished service to Infantry, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before his retirement almost 30 years ago. While he’s had a successful career in business since then, the honour of service still runs through his veins.

ANZAC Day always has, and always will, be a special day for Kim and his family.

“When I was very young, my grandparents would come up for a big celebration,” he recalls. “My grandfather, father and I would go to the dawn service and then go on to the march. The marches were very big back then…every second man had seen some service.

“As a kid you’d wait to see your dad approaching and then run out to join him on the march. I’d be running just to keep up with his walking pace. All the kids used to do that, but they’re trying to stop any kids younger than 12 from marching these days.”

The Duffy dedication to country has continued through Kim’s children. His son, Bryce first started showing interest in an Army career when he was in year 9. “I was surprised at how determined he became,” says Kim, “and it filled my heart with pride when he graduated from Duntroon in 2006.”

Bryce was tragically killed on 29 October 2011 during his second deployment to Afghanistan.

“When we lost Bryce, we received so much support from Bryce’s friends and my ex-Army buddies. My daughter, Samantha, said she’d never met a group of people who were so passionate about what they do. Their belief is so strong – as it must be. It was at this time that Samantha started thinking of joining too. She’s now a Major serving as a Legal Officer in Sydney.”

Even before commencing their own military careers, the young Duffy children understood the reverence of ANZAC Day. “My wife, Kerry, would take the kids to the dawn service – wherever they were in the world. My youngest daughter, Cassandra, now lives in Cambodia and she goes to the embassy there for the dawn service,” explains Kim.

“This year, Kerry will attend the dawn service on behalf of the family. I’m going to the tri-service parade at Bryce’s old school. The ‘Churchie’ parade is one of the biggest in Brisbane and they place a flag in the ground for each of the 50 or so old boys lost to war,” says Kim.

“Then I’ll go and march with my old unit, followed by lunch with some of the old warriors. It’s a long day, but that’s what we do,” he says.

Kim feels there is a growing awareness among young people today of the importance of ANZAC Day. “ANZAC Day is all about honouring those who have been there and done their service. Whether they came back or didn’t come back, it’s about honouring those men and women.”

Kim is pictured above with his wife Kerry, daughters Samantha and Cassandra, and late son Bryce.