Honouring a legacy of service01 April 2023
Army veteran Annette Love shares her family’s story of courage, sacrifice and resilience.
Generations of service
Annette Love was destined for a career in Defence. Her family’s proud military history can be traced back to WWI through her grandfather and two great-uncles, followed by four uncles and a second cousin in WWII. Her father, husband and son served in the Army, her brother in the Air Force, and another son in the Navy. From a young age, Annette realised she also wanted to serve her country.
“My granddad was a WWI veteran,” Annette says. “He used to take me to visit all the other veterans in his street. We’d help them out by doing their grocery shopping. Back then, Granddad was 86 years old himself!
Anette's Grandfather - Jesse Rose Ricketts
“My dad did the same thing on the Gold Coast, so I grew up always wanting to do the same.”
Enlisting in 1988, Annette trained at Kapooka in an all-female platoon. She then worked as an Army Lance Corporal and personal trainer for almost 10 years, before transitioning into public service Defence roles for the rest of her career.
“I loved everything about the Army,” Annette recalls. “I even liked moving around; I thrived on new locations, new jobs, new postings, and new places to find.”
Annette Love with her son Nick.
An unbreakable bond
It was Annette’s late father, Joseph William Conroy, who inspired her path in life.
“Dad was 14 when war broke out in New Guinea, and his father was a Coast Watcher in Rabaul at the time,” she explains.
“They helped move villagers through the mountains to safety when the enemy was closing in.
“Later, they made a raft and floated to Australia to get away. By the time they arrived, they were dehydrated, had lost all their weight and their clothes were in rags.”
Joseph William Conroy
Shortly after this ordeal, her father was sent back to New Guinea. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) before transferring to the Army to serve in the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) as an interpreter. He eventually moved to the Gold Coast and became a fireman.
Years later, a young Annette wrote a letter to her father, who was in America at the time. “I said that by the time he got home, I would be in the Army – and that’s what I did.”
A lifetime of commemoration
With such a deep commitment to service, Annette has unsurprisingly never missed an ANZAC Day in her life. One of her earliest memories is attending an ANZAC Day service. It’s a moment she shares with emotion.
Annette Love with her family at an ANZAC Day commemoration
“As a little kid, I wore my brothers’ slouch hats because they were all Army cadets,” she recalls fondly. “ANZAC Day was huge when I was young. I can still see myself standing on Nerang Street in Southport, waiting for Dad to march past us.
“Afterwards, we’d go to the RSL Club so Dad could be with his mates. I used to open doors for the dignitaries, which he loved to see!”
During Annette’s time in the Army, her father would meet her in the town she was posted in so they could commemorate together.
“I moved around every two years, so we’ve done ANZAC Day in country towns around Wodonga, up in Townsville, Brisbane, Wagga Wagga, and Melbourne,” she says. “No matter where I’ve been, Dad always came.”
Her goal is to one day attend an ANZAC Day in Perth to watch the sun rise over the west coast, and to visit Gallipoli.
“ANZAC Day is a day that we stand united as a nation. No matter who you are, we need to stand up for the people who have gone before us – the legion ethos is that we stand together to move forward, and never go backwards.”
(L-R) Annette with her father Joseph, and brother Frank Conroy.
Paying the ANZAC spirit forward
Annette’s service didn’t stop at the end of her career. After leaving Defence, she explored her interest in fashion design, incorporating thoughtful use of shapes, symbols and fabrics to honour those who have served and sacrificed for Australia.
“I needed something different, and it’s very left-field,” she chuckles. “Of course, all my designs are military. Whenever I find myself trying to try something new, suddenly I find myself pleating and returning to the precision of tailoring.”
Quilts Annette made for Quilts of Valour
She has also used these skills in other ways: crafting quilts for veterans and Army dogs, organising a group to crochet beanies and gloves for those experiencing homelessness, and knitting toys with her Mum to donate to local children’s hospitals.
“If there’s one thing I can say about the Australian Defence Force, it’s that no matter what, we look after each other,” Annette says.
“To me, the ANZAC spirit is, as my father would say, ‘always being there for you, cobber’. It’s about helping and being there for each other.”
How will you commemorate ANZAC Day?
Since WWI, more than 1.5 million Australians have served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
On ANZAC Day (25 April), we invite you to honour their invaluable contribution and commemorate in a way that is meaningful to you.
Attend an RSL Sub Branch service, take a quiet moment to reflect at home or donate to the ANZAC Appeal, and help keep the ANZACs’ legacy alive.
Lest we forget.