Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance here in Australia and, also in New Zealand.
It commemorates those who served and died in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations, from both countries. Anzac Day was originally held to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (hence the acronym ANZAC) and is held on 25 April each year, a date, which marks the landing of those troops in Gallipoli in 1915.
As I have grown older (and debatably wiser), this day has grown in significance for me personally. In our immediate family history, we didn’t have any family members who never made it back from war. My mother’s father was deemed “unfit” for service, and my other grandfather was shot and discharged from service, early on in World War II. We were fortunate.
I recall, as a child, walking in the marches with my school, but not really understanding why. Later, as a teenager and young adult, I saw this day purely as an extra public holiday, and welcomed the day off. I am ashamed to admit that.
But as I entered my 30s and 40s, Anzac Day began to really affect me on both a spiritual and emotional level. I started attending the services and something happened. I now truly realise the full horrors of war; the gravity of the sacrifices made by thousands of Australians; and the enormous debt I owe these people, for the freedom and lifestyle I enjoy today. I do not ever want to take that for granted again.
To those who have returned broken, either physically or mentally, and to those who will never return; the immense sadness it all weighs on me. I am eternally grateful for your service. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like.
Today, I spent Anzac Day in quiet contemplation. On my own, and thankful.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget.
* The Ode comes from “For the Fallen”, a poem by the English poet and writer, Laurence Binyon. It was published in London in The Winnowing Fan: Poems of the Great War in 1914.