WO2 James Hylton-Cummins with little brother Alex and Sgt Ben Hylton-Cummins
WO2 James Hylton-Cummins with little brother Alex and Sgt Ben Hylton-Cummins

Cadets lead by example on Anzac Day

CADETS across the Clarence were out in force on Anzac Day, as one of the few groups to be given the go-ahead to get in uniform.

With more than 30 years of experience in the Army Cadets, Major Sally Benfield said it was great to see so many young cadets represent the organisation.

“I think it is very important for them; some have relatives that have been to war and they are wearing medals ­representing their past and present and holding it in their hearts dearly,” she said.

“I am very proud of the effort and commitment of all cadets that got involved.”

Ms Benfield said she was happy with the way the rest of the community got involved, even though it was a significant break from tradition..

She said that in her street there were around eight other families taking part in the localised services.

“It was a shame I couldn’t be with all the cadets, but we still dealt with it. We are resilient and came with a new way to do things.

Sgt Ben Hylton-Cummins, a 16-year-old cadet from South Grafton, said it was great to be given permission to get into uniform as it was an important day for him and his whole family.

“We tried to do as much of a service as we could do at home — mum was working for two weeks trying to find the right songs, getting candles and making a wreath.,” he said.

“We put a little note in the (neighbours’) letter box and there were around seven houses to come out. It really connected the community.”

Sgt Hallam and Cdt Hallam.
Sgt Hallam and Cdt Hallam.

Ben said he was initially concerned there would be no service at all with the coronavirus outbreak and had ­planned to get up and watch the sunrise as a mark of respect.

“I was really worried about it because they went and fought and lost their lives and  the best that we can do is respect them in some way,” he said.

“It was great to do something to respect them.”

His family are deeply involved in the cadets, and even his youngest brother Alex says will join when he is older.

“He really wants to join and follow us, we have a lot of military history in our family.”

And Ben intends to continue that history , by heading to the Australian Defence Force Academy and undertaking a mechanical engineering degree before becoming an officer.

Connor and Jaxon O'Brien stand to attention on Anzac Day.
Connor and Jaxon O'Brien stand to attention on Anzac Day.

There was a similar sentiment in Waterview Heights, where cadets Connor and Jaxon O’Brien took part in their own service.

Connor O’Brien said while it was a bit different to the usual it was still important to pay their respects to those who have served.

“People died for this land and if we don’t pay our respects its rude,” he said.

Jaxon O’Brien was unlucky to miss out on his first march, having only just become a cadet but said it was still important to participate.

“I was confident we would pull together to do something,” he said. “It was different than usual but we were still paying respect.”

“I am definitely looking forward to it (next year).”

The Henderson family.
The Henderson family.

The Australian Army Cadets is a national youth development organisation which holds the character and values of the Australian Army.

Ms Benfield joined the cadets in 1989 and has forged a path as an officer, working with a new generation of kids in an organisation she loves.

She said while the Covid-19 crisis had stopped their usual activities, they were looking forward to sending activities online.

“We are going to do online training and zoom lessons so they don’t lose interest we don’t want to lose them.”

The program is open to anyone between the ages of 13 and 16 and Ms Benfield said it was a great way to learn new skills, initiative, courage and teamwork.

“It’s a great opportunity to do things kids don’t get to do anywhere else,” she said.