Today is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. It is a day when we stop and remember those who have died in armed conflict and peace keeping missions. It is a day when we thank those who died, and those who survived.
ANZAC Day attendances at public gatherings is on the rise, especially at those very early morning Dawn Services. Whilst I am normally up early in the morning with the toddler, due to a very late night for him he is asleep at 6:30am as I write this.
This morning I felt that I had to write this now that I have a public outlet in the form of this blog, and it is time that I confessed to something that I feel ashamed of.
In my earlier years I was against ANZAC Day. I am going to be as open an honest about this as I have ever been, and the reasons as to why I was against it are in some ways innocent, and in other ways down right pathetic. But as I maintain, even though I just recently turned 40 years old, I have so much to learn, and not only do I need to keep my ears and eyes open, but I need to keep an open mind.
ANZAC Day isn’t without controversy. Pacifist groups have often condemned the day suggesting that it glorifies war. That was one of my own schools of thought. Although I am not part of any pacifist group, being someone who wishes war didn’t exist, I was sure that this is exactly what was happening.
But on ANZAC Day we do not celebrate, we commemorate. That’s the difference. ANZAC Day is not a celebration of those who march down the streets of big cities and small towns, it is the commemoration of those who died in those battles that brought us freedom.
Being a first generation Australian having both my parents born in England, my family does not have a strong connection to Australia’s history. I did not have a grandfather who fought for this country. I did not have an uncle who fought for this country. And my own father, he did not fight for this country.
Not in the Great War, not in the Second World War, not in the Boer Wars, not in the Korean War, not in the Vietnam War, not in the Russian Civil War; not in any of the wars that were fought by people of this nation before I was born.
And because of this, I felt left out. That’s right. In my youth I had feelings of jealousy towards those friends at school whose families had a connection to the day. Those who had grandfathers who dressed up in their suits adorned with medals. Those who had fathers and uncles who were veterans of “Nam.”
And that is why I am calling myself out and letting you know how pathetic that is; how stupid of me it was to wish that I had someone who was my own personal connection to this day. But in another way, it was an innocent thought.
I wanted my own hero of the day. I wanted my own “Vietnam Vet.” I wanted to be a part of this and more than just a bystander on the road side waiving a cheap $2 flag that probably had “made in Vietnam” printed on it.
Even up to my twenties I still felt my “angst” towards the “celebration of war” and “jealousy towards those with personal ties” on ANZAC Day. As the years went by I have met more people who do have relatives who have family connections to many of those armed conflicts. And I have become friends with people who are currently in the Armed Forces who have been to those more recent conflicts including the Gulf War, the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.
I know people who have been on those peace keeping missions to the Middle East, Kosovo, Cambodia, Rwanda, Somalia and East Timor. They are not there looking to be heroes. They are there so that the people of those countries can be as free as we are here in Australia and New Zealand.
When I hear the stories about those who did survive these wars and missions, there are many that are left with emotional and psychological scars that will last until their dying days. And for many of them, these scars will be passed down to the next generation, and possibly even the generation after that.
I am thankful that I don’t have anyone who died for this country. I am thankful that no one in my family’s history had to fight for any country. I know how lucky my blood line is that they didn’t need to spill any of that blood.
But you don’t have to be related by blood to call someone a brother. Our nations affectionately refer to those who fought and died in those wars as the sons of our nation. So in truth, I do have brothers that survived. I do have sons that died. Being part of this nation as a first generation Australian, I am very much a part of this than I realised in my youth.
I was wrong. I am sorry and I hope that you can forgive me. I will make it up to you. Once my own boys are old enough we will wake up early on April 25th and head down to our local Dawn Service.
We will thank you for what you did for our countries. We will lift you up and carry you when you are too weak to go on. And we will always remember you;
Lest We Forget.