For my friends around the world, you might have noticed a little more activity on social media from your Aussie and Kiwi mates as we all acknowledge (probably) our most important day of the year – ANZAC Day – which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. More than a Mel Gibson movie, it commemorates the day our troops landed in Gallipoli on the other side of the world way back in 1915, and has become part of the national psyche of both countries. It’s something we definitely pay serious attention to. People visiting are often blown away by how solemn the ceremonies are, but also by the fact that people of every age participate and honour the dead (and the living) who have fought in our wars. It’s a good day, it’s a worthy day, because we’re saying to people who went out and fought – we honour you and we thank you. It doesn’t matter if we agree with the war that was (or is being) fought, it only matters that we honour those who went – that’s how I’ve always seen it anyway.
I’ve always loved ANZAC Day and from the youngest age had the privilege of participating in the march, first with Wodonga Citizens Brass Band, then later in Melbourne with Preston Brass Band, and finally, with the Australian Army Band. It was such an amazing thing to be part of, especially doing the march in Melbourne with the Australian Army Band – very powerful. Although I’ll never forget the Dawn Service one year – 1993 I think? We had to play God Save the Queen in the dark – our old national anthem. For some reason, every musician in the band forgot it (not good) and as we couldn’t see the music, we botched it up BIG time. Did we get a shellacking back at the barracks after that… ooops.
As a young girl I always remember watching the old soldiers, marching so proudly (some in wheelchairs or on the back of cars), being honoured for their contribution. It was powerful stuff to me and even thinking about these times, tears well up in my eyes. I also used to enjoy seeing the nurses marching right alongside the men, although now women participate equally, as more and more take on the mantle of combat. If I was a young gal back in those days, I would’ve gone to war as a nurse too. Very admirable women – including my Aunt Merl. She’ll be getting drunk today.
ANZAC Day changed in my youth, from being very Australian, to including soldiers from all over the world marching right alongside our own – it was brilliant. If there was a community from anywhere in the world that wanted their soldiers to march, it seemed they were welcome. As a young kid I remember watching the Vietnamese soldiers (our allies I presume) march the first year – and it stood out because the soldiers looked so completely different to anyone I’d ever seen before (my town was very Caucasian/white in those days) but also because that war wasn’t long finished. There was a strange silence as we all watched them march by, in the different green of their uniforms, with the strangeness of their faces – witnessing this as a young girl, the memory has always stayed with me.
Of course, once the parades and ceremonies are over, it’s time to get pissed and play two-up – the only legal way you used to be able to gamble in Australia, and ANZAC Day was the only day it was officially permitted. Now you can gamble bloody everywhere but two-up is still fun, and I wish my fellow Aussie and Kiwi friends a great day today as you honour our fallen and celebrate being alive. What’s the point of putting our countries through wars if we forget to have a bloody good time as well? This article seems to suggest the mood is changing – for once, I agree with Julia.
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