Sally Heidenreich knows firsthand what it’s like to face danger on the front line of a war zone.
The Adelaide-based lawyer served as an intelligence officer in the Australian Army for over a decade and ahead of Anzac Day has shared some of her experiences in conflict zones around the world.
Ms Heidenreich said one of her most rewarding experiences while serving her country was when she spent time as a part of a Special Operations Task Group.
“The highlight of my service was planning and executing targeting operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan,” she said.
“I was responsible for analysing members of the insurgent network and determining who were the highest priorities to be targeted.
“We would either dispatch ground troops to target them if possible or, if the terrain in question was too remote or inhospitable, my team and I would target them ourselves using specialised military assets.
Sally Heidenreich said everyone’s service is equal and Anzac Day is about inclusivity and togetherness. (Supplied: Sally Heidenreich)
“This was extremely challenging and demanding work, but it was incredibly rewarding to see the positive effects on ordinary civilians’ lives.”
Ms Heidenreich has shared her experience to help highlight this year’s one-off campaign for Australian servicewomen, as she prepares to step forward in Adelaide as part of the national By the Left initiative.
What is ‘By the Left’?
The initiative has been launched this year to encourage servicewomen from around Australia to march as one this Anzac Day, wearing their medals proudly on the left hand side of their uniform.
Ms Heidenreich said it followed the common misconception that women who march on Anzac Day wear medals on the wrong side, with many people approaching them and telling them they are wearing them on the wrong side.
If a service person is wearing their own medals, they should be worn on the left-hand side of the chest, if wearing someone else’s medals they should be worn on the right-hand side.
Ms Heidenreich said the march would mean a lot to servicewomen this year because it was important for all people who served to feel that they have a place, without question.
“The march and the By The Left initiative in particular mean a great deal because it is so important for everyone who has served, or who continues to serve, in any capacity to feel that they have their place on Anzac Day,” she said.
“Everyone’s service is equal, whether they were deployed on operations or not, regardless of sex, sexual persuasion, colour or creed.
“The day is about inclusivity and togetherness.”
Sally Heidenreich served as an Intelligence Officer in the Australian Regular Army for over a decade. (Supplied: Sally Heidenreich)
‘We hope for increased awareness and recognition’
The initiative aims to encourage people to attend their local march and Ms Heidenreich said she hoped the one-off event would also encourage servicewomen to keep coming back year after year.
“We hope that there will be increased public understanding and recognition of women — and all veterans, of the contribution that we all make to Australian military operations,” she said.
Sally Heidenreich believes everyone who has served their country should feel that they have their place on Anzac Day. (Supplied: Sally Heidenreich)
“There is no clear front line anymore and there is no more segregation of roles along gender lines.
“We all contribute equally, we are all in harm’s way and women are now performing in various different combat roles that have traditionally been considered male-only territory.
“We hope that by increasing public awareness, there will be fewer and fewer incidents of women being told by complete strangers that they have put their father’s medals on the wrong side of their jacket.”
Organiser of the By the Left initiative, Kellie Dadds, said it was incredible to see the servicewomen’s march taking off around the country.
But she reiterated that it wasn’t just about servicewomen — it was about all those who have served.
“It’s an initiative that aims to broaden the public’s perception of what a veteran looks like and what we’re really focused on is helping the public to realise that veterans come in many shapes and sizes,” she said.
Ms Dadds said the initiative didn’t start off as a servicewomen’s march, but local RSL groups from around the country had come up with the idea themselves to recognise their servicewomen.
“It’s a wonderful honour and a great privilege for all servicewomen,” she said.
“What we’re encouraging is for all veterans to march with an existing group that best represents their service.”
Kellie Dadds (second from right) with four other servicewomen wearing their medals on the left hand side of their uniform. (Facebook: By the Left)