RAAF squadron leader Del Gaudry remembers the sacrifice of men and women

Anzac Day is an important day of remembering and reflection for Blaxland's Del Gaudry.

The Royal Australian Air Force squadron leader has held many roles within the air force over the years, and believes Anzac Day traditions such as the Dawn Service are "firmly established as part of our national culture."

"From the Dawn Service to the Last Post, these traditions are a chance to reflect upon the losses suffered, the sacrifices made and the need to strive for peace where possible," she says in a Respect the Day video put together by the RSL and Services Clubs Association.

"It's remembering the men and women who have lost their lives and those who have mental and physical injuries; the sacrifices they made," she told the Blue Mountains Gazette.

"When I walked the Kokoda Track in 2008 it really brought home how tough it must have been for our veterans who were there. I was there equipped; they were there ill-equipped on many levels."

Last year Ms Gaudry had the honour of reciting The Ode at the Anzac Day NRL game between the Dragons and the Roosters.

Every year she marches in Sydney with the Women's Royal Australian Air Force, and also marched last year at the Sydney march with By the Left - a group founded by Victorian veteran Kellie Dadds for servicewomen who were sick of being told that "you're wearing your grandfather's medals on the wrong side."

"The crowd are so encouraging. You always get such a great feeling marching in Sydney," Ms Gaudry said.

"It makes you feel so proud."

This Anzac Day she'll be at Hellfire Pass in Thailand, a railway cutting on the former 'Death Railway' built with forced labour, including Allied prisoners of war, during the Second World War, where the harsh conditions saw a heavy loss of life.

Now 61, Ms Gaudry works as a member support co-ordinator through the air force's Canberra headquarters, but is based out of Glenbrook

She deals with personnel nationwide, checking how they're going with treatment plans for various injuries and illness, and providing assistance as required.

Post traumatic stress disorder is a frequent occurrence.

"You don't have to see lots of terrible things to get PTSD," she said.

Ms Gaudry has worked in a variety of roles within the air force - everything from logistics, to the New South Wales manager of Defence Reserves support, and air force coach.

She first joined the Women's Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 18, and left about two years later.

She joined again in 1989 after completing a degree and with a six-year-old daughter.

After leaving the air force again, she moved into human resources, working for several big companies such as Visy, Mobil and Bunzl.

But she couldn't stay away, returning once more in 2006 to join the reserves.

While the number of women in the Australian Defence Force is increasing, there's still a long way to go.

In 2018, women represented 22.1 per cent of the air force, 21.5 per cent of the navy and 14.3 per cent of the army.

"Twenty-five per cent is the tipping point in professions where things become more normal," Ms Gaudry said.

In 1990 when she was completing her training to become an officer, of the group of 24, just four were women.

"It's vastly different from when I first joined," she said.

"It's about having strong leaders ... we need more women at the top. There's a very narrow band of women at the top, but it's getting better."

Having childcare centres close to bases and onsite so that both parents can take responsibility for their children, was a good thing, she said.

When I walked the Kokoda Track in 2008 it really brought home how tough it must have been for our veterans who were there. I was there equipped; they were there ill-equipped on many levels.

Del Gaudry

"They've done more to make it easier or better for parents.

"I would encourage anyone to join the military. It's a great opportunity to learn life skills and the place gives you lots of opportunities."

Ms Gaudry has played an important role within the air force in providing support for servicewomen.

She was the Women's Integrated Network Group co-ordinator for Sydney, and in May 2017 she started a western Sydney branch of the Women's Veterans Network.

The monthly meetings are for women who are serving or have served, or are in the reserves.

"It's great the stories they share. It's great to have the support," Ms Gaudry said.

It's not only within the air force Ms Gaudry is making a difference.

She's been a member of the Blaxland Rural Fire Service for 10 years, encouraging other women to join, so much so their brigade now boasts 27 women.

"The captain says we're one of the few brigades with so many women," Ms Gaudry said.

She's always believed, "if you can't see it you can't be it."

She's the deputy chair on the Penrith RSL board, and says they're one of the few clubs with an even split of men and women on the board.

"I always felt I wanted to make a difference and to make a difference you have to give back. I don't watch much TV."

Even as a teenager she was "making a difference".

In year 11, sick and tired of the freezing winters where girls were expected to wear skirts to school in Camden, she showed up wearing trousers.

She was almost expelled in the process, but kept a meticulous record of the temperatures, and eventually came to an agreement with the school.

And as an adult living with her then school-age daughter Kimberly in Adelaide, she didn't see any girls using the monkey bars.

This was because other kids "could see their knickers."

So Ms Gaudry approached the school board, and "skorts" - a combination of shorts and a skirt - were introduced.

She hopes for a more forgiving world for her two grandchildren, with equal opportunities.

"I want her [Allegra] to have the opportunities to be whatever she wants to be. The same for my grandson [Aleix], and if he wants to be a ballet dancer he can," she said.

"If you've got a dream, don't give up on it because of your gender."

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