A tear escaped from the corner of my eye as I saw the veteran being pushed toward me in his wheelchair, his jacket being weighed down by his war medals, his hand shakily waving at the younger children in front of me. What would Australia be without his, and his comrades, sacrifice?
– Townsville ANZAC Day Parade, 2010
ANZAC Day didn’t mean too much to me when I was younger. But as I have aged I have learned more about my family’s war history and I have met people who fought and survived, but never forgot.
What is ANZAC Day?
ANZAC Day is the 25th April and marks the anniversary of the first major military action the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) fought during World War I. The forces landed at Gallipoli on the Turkish Coast to be met by fierce resistance from the local defenders. As the Australian War Memorial website states:
“What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated and over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.”
The day begins in Australia with a Dawn Service in most towns and cities nationwide, which is the time of the original landing. This is usually followed with a march and parade down city streets, when servicemen and women of the past, present and future walk to remember the fallen. The dawn service is always marked with two minutes’ silence followed by the lone bugler (a trumpet-type instrument) playing the Last Post. This rendition always gives me goose bumps. It is such a beautiful piece of music that signifies one of the most important days in our nation.
I have attended ANZAC Day Parades in both Townsville and Brisbane. In Townsville my mum would get out my great-granddad’s medals from their secret spot for us to wear. As he was over 40 when World War II began, he did not get shipped overseas. Instead, he was a nurse’s aid on hospital ships docked off Australia’s coast.
After spending more time with my granddad recently have I realised how many of my family members have fought/been involved in serving this country: two of his brothers fought in World War II in the Middle East and Northern Africa; he served in the Australian Army where he met my grandma (she was a cook); my paternal granddad came to Australia with the British Navy; my cousin’s uncle died in the Vietnam War; and I have another cousin now in the Army. I couldn’t be prouder that I have so many people in my family who were/are willing to sacrifice their lives for a better future for me and my loved ones.
In Brisbane over the past couple of years, I have been fortunate to sit with my cousin’s partner and his family. His dad and uncle both walk in the parade for the Navy. It is so beautiful to see their grand-kids twirling Australian flags around and waving to them, smiles lighting up their faces, feeling pride for their pops walking in this “big parade.” When they’re older they will learn just how amazing their granddads are, and just what they went through for us.
I have always been proud to be Australian. I love my homeland. I love the mateship and ANZAC spirit. I love what men and women of the past, present and future have and will continue to do to keep my country beautiful and safe. I am blessed to be Australian, and I celebrate this every ANZAC Day.
Lest we forget.