Jan-Maree Ball OAM | 57 | Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy

Jan-Maree Ball OAM | 57 | Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy

Served 15 years.

RAAF 1982 – 1989 left as a FLTLT Air Traffic Controller | RAN 1989 – 1996 LCDR started as a Communicator, changed to Administration Officer.

“When I joined the RAAF women were not allowed to be pilots or engineers. When I joined the RAN women did not go to sea.  Women were not allowed in the infantry.  When I see what women are achieving today, commanding ships, regiments and battalions, flying operational missions, taking the lead in all three services, it makes me so proud.”

  • David Linton Ball and I met whilst we were still serving; we met at RAAF Richmond, months before I changed from the RAAF to the RAN and we married a few years later.
  • I am most humbled to have received my OAM. It was given to me for my service to the defence community for the organisation I founded in 2012, Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags). The fact that I was nominated for it by senior defence members whilst on deployment, when they would have had many other priorities, and the very warm response from the serving community when the award became public, means a great deal to me. This recognition comes with the responsibility to make sure that I honour the award and also those that nominated and congratulated me, those who I seek to serve through Aussie Heroes every single day.
  • Military service is not for everyone and everyone’s experience is different. It has its advantages and its disadvantages, but I will be forever grateful that at 19 years old, I chose to leave home, move across the other side of the country, and wear the uniform. It gave me experiences I would not have had otherwise, taught me lessons I would have learned nowhere else and equipped me perfectly for what I do now. I am not sure where I would be without and I cherish the experience, the good and the bad, and am grateful for what it taught me.

What do you want people to remember about your service? When I served it was during an era when deployments were few and far between. A lot of people who served during that era are not comfortable with being called a veteran, especially when compared to the veterans of today, many who have operational deployments under their belt. What I have come to understand is that if I, and people of my era, did not serve, then there would not have been a deployable force when we needed it. I want people to remember about my service is just that I served. Women are often questioned about wearing their medals on the left, as if they belong to their spouse or a relative. I have never been questioned but many I know have so what I want people to remember is simply that I have served… and served proudly.

What was the best and worst 'military' food you were served, and why? The best food I was served in the military would have been the meals I shared in the Mess with my peers, including the meals that we ate at Dining In Nights, as we enjoyed the camaraderie and esprit de corps of those special formal dinners. I have such fond memories of going to the Mess for lunch or dinner when I was a “living in'' member. People from all parts of the base would meet together for the meal and together we would solve the “problems of the world” or just cement friendships as we ate together. We lived together like family and worked together professionally in our jobs. It was a great time. The worst food I remember eating, apart from the ration packs which I was lucky to not have to eat too often, was the swiss chard, over-cooked cabbage and soggy spinach, some variation of which seemed to be served with every meal in the mess and I still cannot eat any of them!

What effect did your military experience have on your life? Service life has had a massive impact on my life. I would not have thought so soon after leaving the services. I left when I became pregnant with twin boys and my life was consumed with motherhood for several years. It was not until they were around 16 years old that I started up my organisation Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags). It was only then that I was drawn back into the service family and the experiences and skills from my service days have been immeasurably helpful.

As an organisation we send homemade personalised quilts and laundry bags to our serving men and women on deployment overseas. We have Wounded Warrior Quilts in the medical centres and hospitals overseas ready to be given to those who are seriously injured or wounded in the line of duty. We also give quilts and laundry bags to those with some sort of compassionate need. Families whose loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice as a result of their service, or who have passed as the result of serious illness or accident will be offered a Fallen Warrior Quilt in memory of their loved one.

I have devoted the last 9 years to running Aussie Heroes and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I am probably more connected to the defence world now than ever, with friends and relationships that span the three services, all ranks and past and present serving. In that time we have sent over 11000 quilts and 23000 laundry bags to serving men and women. We are making a difference, certainly more of a difference that I had ever imagined would be possible and I can’t imagine ever not doing this. In fact, I think it is a great privilege to do what I do and it is certainly a great pleasure.

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