Chief of Army Scholarship recipient Corporal Elena Rowland walks along the rows of headstones at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France, on 24 April 2014
Army life has provided plenty of opportunities for Corporal Elena Rowland, who enlisted into the Australian Regular Army in August 2004 as an environmental health technician in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps. In that role, she deployed to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in response to the Indonesian tsunami and to Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, as part of the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program.
In 2007, she represented the Australian Army in Exercise Long Look, where she was posted to many locations, including London, York, Aldershot and Edinburgh, and went on a two-week international peacekeeping exercise to Lithuania.
In 2009, Corporal Rowland transferred to the Royal Australian Army Dental Corps as a dental assistant and received the Student of Merit award on the completion of her Dental Assistants Course. At the end of 2009, she deployed to Indonesia on Operation Padang Assist in response to earthquakes. On that deployment, she received recognition for her hard work, selflessness and inspirational attitude in very hard and demanding conditions.
Following postings to Sydney and Darwin, Corporal Rowland is now posted to Brisbane. In April 2013, she set up a Facebook support page, ‘Women of the ADF’, to support women in Defence and promote her work for charities.
In 2013, Corporal Rowland pledged to stop homelessness among the veteran community and began devoting most of her spare time to organising fundraising and planning initiatives. With further research, she realised that the best way to raise awareness would be to walk in the veterans’ shoes, so she rallied others to join her sleeping on the street.
This is now known as ‘Exercise Stone Pillow’. On 14 September 2013, Corporal Rowland, along with 25 other committed personnel, spent 24 hours on the street and managed to raise $6,000 for Mates4Mates, an organisation dedicated to providing support for ADF personnel and their families. This year, Exercise Stone Pillow will be an integral part of Veterans Health Week, held in October. Funds raised will go to Remembrance House, a refuge for homeless veterans in Brisbane.
The Anzac Spirit Lives On
Closing my eyes and breathing deep,
cold air running through my veins.
As dawn approaches, the sparrows call
my heart and soul untamed.
Looking forward, looking back
the Anzac Spirit lives on.
For it’s built on the sacrifice of our men,
who fought but now are gone.
Emotions stirring deep within,
darkness fighting with the light.
For although it is a bloody past,
for our peace, these men did fight.
They fought for this, our country
and they fought for what they loved.
They kept pushing forward despite the fear,
through gas, and shells and mud.
Not only were our men at war,
but the war went home as well.
For their mums and dads and children too
were all walking this living hell.
Some men, they made it home alive
after the last post tune was played.
But some mums will wait forevermore,
their waiting all in vain ...
As the rising sun burns dawn away,
our past can rest, it’s done.
Now all that’s left to do is honour them,
the Anzac Spirit lives on.
Corporal Elena Rowland
25 April 2014
Corporal Rowland writes poetry about her experiences in the Army and the experiences of her mates. She plans to publish an Australian Army poetry book, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to veterans in crisis, especially the homeless.
In 2012, Corporal Rowland was awarded a Chief of Army Scholarship and conducted a tour of the battlefields of France.
She was commended by the Premier of Queensland for her work with Exercise Stone Pillow and was invited to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a state conference luncheon.
Corporal Rowland is married, has a two-year-old son, and is currently studying for a degree in social science. In what little spare time she has, she enjoys playing volleyball and netball and going fishing, bushwalking and horse-riding.