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Army February 16, 2012
I'M WRITING this letter on the last day of
my service in the Australian Army. I retired on
February 7 after 38 years and two days of service,
having started as a naive 17-year-old private sol-
dier way back in 1974.
When I signed on in those distant days, I
never dreamed that I'd serve almost four dec-
ades. What a wonderful, adventurous and deeply
rewarding period of service it has been. I've
served alongside so many great people, seen and
done things that most people can only dream of,
and had the privilege to command the absolute
best of Australia's men and women.
I leave with only a few regrets, not for myself,
but for the loss of those killed in action or train-
ing, and the pain and life-changing effect on those
wounded in action or seriously injured, and their
families. I will never forget those sad events. But
I will also never forget the courage, initiative and
remarkable good humour of our diggers.
What an extraordinary institution our Army is!
It epitomises the best characteristics of Australia
through its focus on selfless sacrifice, service to a
greater good, teamwork, discipline and mateship
that shows its true depth in the toughest times.
And standing right behind all those diggers are
our amazing families who sustain us, encourage
us and bear the brunt of our often demanding
lifestyle. It's no wonder our Army is admired and
respected the world over. Ours is truly a uniquely
I leave deeply proud of my time as a soldier
and an officer. I cannot imagine having spent so
much of my life in any other way. To all the thou-
sands of my fellow soldiers with whom I have
served over the years, thank you for making my
career so enjoyable and rewarding. Thank you
for the inspiration you provided me, the laughs
and good times we shared, and the memories I'll
Good luck and good soldiering.
Maj-Gen John Cantwell (Retd)
Four decades of memories
Saying goodbye: Maj-Gen John Cantwell retired on February 7 after 38 years in the Army. During his career, he served in the Gulf War
while on exchange with the British Army in 1990-91, commanded 1 Bde in 2004-05 and was commander of Australian forces in the MEAO
Photo by Sgt Neil Ruskin
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