As a dim-witted young soldier, the approach of ANZAC Day (April 25th) meant pretty much two things: a day off regular work, and a marathon drinking session–the latter starting around 4am and ending a couple of days later when I’d wake with an epic hangover, sometimes with a fat lip or black eye, wondering who the hell I’d mistakenly taken-on this time. Or worse still, waking up next to a warthog. You know who I mean; the love-child of Oprah Winfrey and Frankenstein’s monster–that nightmare situation where you contemplate chewing your arm off instead of sliding it out from beneath her, so as not to awaken the beast…
‘Cos after all, I’m a real oil painting.
All joking aside, I knew what ANZAC Day meant. What it really was about. Is about. We all did…
In short, it was originally a day to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War 1, but has since been expanded to broadly commemorate those ANZACs who ‘served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations’ as well as ‘the contribution and suffering of all those who have served’.
As dim-witted as I was (and with my mind drifting to all the wonderful booze I was soon about to consume), when I stood to attention in uniform, my mates either side, watching the dawn break, jumping when the big guns fired, listening to the Last Post, the tears would always come. Along with the realization that what was happening, what we were part of, what we were there to commemorate, was something bigger than us all. Something none of us–military or not–should ever be allowed to forget.
‘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