When I was growing up, ANZAC day was not something I really knew about, or took notice of. In fact it probably wasn’t until a boy in my class played the Last Post at a school assembly one year, that I actually started considering the fact that we had a public holiday. Prior to that my memories consisted of being annoyed because the only thing on TV was the march.
To read that now, I feel more than a little guilty. An Australian not having a respect for the 25th of April is pretty much the definition of an oxymoron, but it was never intentional. My parents were both born in Britain during World War 2, (Dad at the beginning, Mum at the end) so ANZAC day wasn’t something they grew up celebrating or remembering. Instead my dad often tells the story of my grandfather holding some position in the British army, trying to organise a safe place to meet my grandmother, but everywhere they went, Hitler either followed or headed there first. It was different for them.
That grandfather, as far as I know, was the only member of our family to serve in the armed forces until the recent future, so again, there’s never been a war connection for us. At this time of year many people share about their uncles or grandfathers who fought for our country, and I don’t have those stories to tell. In some ways it can make you feel a little disconnected from the ANZAC spirit. Not that that is an excuse; it just is what it is.
My awareness of war changed in year nine. As part of our English unit Mrs Wright had us read All Quiet on the Western Front, and Goodnight Mr Tom, both stories which were devastating in their own ways. Then we had to watch the movie Gallipoli, to see the Australian perspective. I remember watching that movie and wondering about the futility of war; it all seemed so pointless. Men climbing up a stoney cliff, to what seemed certain death, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I wonder if it made sense for them either? I wonder if they saw some purpose in it that I couldn’t understand?
We visited Gallipoli Beach in early January; and no not the one in Turkey, but the one in Coffin Bay, where they shot the movie because of its likeness to ANZAC cove. Walking down the trail to the beach, gave me a whole new appreciation for the courage and the sacrifice and the determination of our diggers; if the real place was even remotely like this, it was not an easy task.
Like many people, I dream of a war free world, and yet the pragmatist in me wonders if it’s even possible. So long as evil exists, the good will rise up to fight it, and if they didn’t that would in fact be the real tragedy.
What’s left then is a confusion about why people start them in the first place; why they feel the cost of blood justifies whatever it is they are trying to prove. I don’t suppose I’m alone in that.
I don’t understand war, and I don’t understand what it’s like for the soldiers who fight them, or the families who are left behind. I have nothing to add to that discussion, but Lauren from The Thud said it all so beautifully. (Link here, because it won’t add 🙁 http://the-thud.com/anzac-day-thank-you/ )
What I do have is an overwhelming sense of gratitude; a thankfulness for those that have gone before and those who have gone ahead. For those who have made this country the place it is, and given my children the freedom to run on a beach in joy, instead of away from God-knows-what.
To sit on the rocks and smile at the future.
Thank you will never be enough. But that’s what I can give.
Thank you to the men and women who protect our country, and the families that support you while you do it.
Thank you to those who sacrificed everything for our freedom, no matter how purposeful or pointless it might have seen at the time.
Thank you for who you are and what you do.
Lest we forget.