THEY left warm beds to stride to their front gates in the frigid pre-dawn of Anzac Day morning – individuals and family groups lining three Glen Iris streets – mindful of coronavirus restrictions, but assembling in a neighbourly bond of solidarity.
They were honouring this unique Anzac Day of 2020, and implicitly Private Greg Sher, a beloved son of their neighbourhood, who had given his life while on duty in Afghanistan.
At 5.50am, standing sentry on the edges of their desolate streets, illuminated only by the sole candle each was holding, and by the lights in their windows, residents of Cloverdale Road, Glen Iris, where Private Sher’s parents Felix and Yvonne and their family have lived for many years, and those in adjoining Rosedale Road and Brownell Road – some 60 people – had responded to a special invitation in their letterboxes. Neighbour Adam Feldman, his wife Naomi and their children Ari and Shosh, had invited the neighbourhood to honour Anzac Day and Private Sher in this year of COVID-19.
The Australian Jewish soldier was 30 years old and serving with the Special Operations Task Group when he was killed in a rocket attack in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province in January 2009.
At 6am, the silence was broken by the broadcast of the Anzac Dawn Service from the empty Shrine of Remembrance, piped into the streets through loudspeakers set up by Adam. To the Sher family, Adam’s message had been simple, recounted Felix Sher, Private Sher’s father. “He said, ‘I’ve got a surprise for you.'”
The Shers – Felix, his wife Yvonne, son Steven and his wife Ronit – were overwhelmed as they stood by their own gate, with the Shers’ son Barry at a distance, joining residents of the three streets as they followed Anzac Day prayers, and the Ode and Last Post.
“We’ve lived here for 18 years and many of our neighbours for around the same time. They know of our tragedy,” Felix told The AJN. “Normally we go to the 1st Commando Regiment in Williamstown [for Anzac Day]. This year, though, we were determined to follow the restrictions set in place by the Chief of the Defence Force. But it was a very moving dawn service – it was just amazing.”
Meanwhile, at a nearby park, wreaths and lights were left at a memorial to Private Sher. His former comrades from the 5th and 6th Battalion of the Royal Victorian Regiment pinned a note to the tanbark, “Never forgotten – from the B [Company] 5/6 lads. Lest we forget.”