ANZAC Day 2009

25 04 2009

ANZAC Day 2009

In New Zealand the word ANZAC (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) has a meaning of Australian-New Zealand kinship and in both Australia and New Zealand, Anzac Day, on 25 April, is the main day of remembrance for the fallen in all wars.

25 April is the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli in 1915. Annual services remembering the dead of that campaign began as early as 1916 and continue today.

ANZAC Memorial Ceremony

The observance of Anzac Day as a national day of remembrance began with the first anniversary of the landing in 1916. Since that time Anzac Day services have expanded to include all subsequent wars. New Zealand services are mainly in honour of those who died, while Australian services focus more on all soldiers that served. Every Anzac Day ceremony involves the playing of Reveille and the Last Post and the reciting of the Ode.

The Flanders Poppy

Red paper poppies are popularly worn on and around Anzac Day as a mark of respect to those who died in the course of service to their country.

The use of the red Flanders Poppy as a symbol of remembrance derives from the fact that the poppy was the first plant to re-emerge from the churned up soil of soldiers’ graves during the First World War. West Flanders is the area of Belgium where the Battles of Ypres took place.

It was a poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian medical officer, which began the process by which the Flanders Poppy became immortalised worldwide as the symbol of remembrance:

We will remember them...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though
poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Another well-known poem, called “Not a Hero”, encapsulates so well what so many old servicemen must feel on this day. It’s been said that in the fields and trenches of battle, a man fights not for ideals so much as for the brother next to him. The loss of fallen comrades is something these men will never forget.

Not a Hero

The ANZAC Day march was over – the old Digger had done his best.
His body ached from marching – it was time to sit and rest.
He made his way to a park bench and sat with lowered head.
A young boy passing saw him – approached and politely said,
“Please sir do you mind if I ask you what the medals you wear are for?
Did you get them for being a hero, when fighting in a war?”

Startled, the old Digger moved over and beckoned the boy to sit.
Eagerly the lad accepted – he had not expected this!
“First of all I was not a hero,” said the old Digger in solemn tone,
“But I served with many heroes, the ones that never came home.
So when you talk of heroes, it’s important to understand,
The greatest of all heroes gave their lives defending this land.

“The medals are worn in their honour, as a symbol of respect.
All diggers wear them on ANZAC Day – it shows they don’t forget.”
The old digger then climbed to his feet and asked the boy to stand.
Carefully he removed the medals and placed them in his hand.
He told him he could keep them – to treasure throughout his life,
A legacy of a kind – left behind – paid for in sacrifice.

Overwhelmed the young boy was speechless – he couldn’t find words to say.
It was there the old Digger left him – going quietly on his way.
In the distance the young boy glimpsed him – saw him turn and wave goodbye.
Saddened he sat alone on the bench – tears welled in his eyes.
He never again saw him ever – but still remembers with pride,
When the old Digger told him of Heroes and a young boy sat and cried.

For me, ANZAC Day is a day of reflection, of remembrance, and most of all, a day of gratitude as I am humbled by the sacrifice of those men and women who have gone before, and given everything for a cause greater than themselves. In light of their ultimate gift to us, how do we live?

Let us not take for granted the immense privileges of freedom, peace and prosperity that we enjoy today.

Let us honour their sacrifice. Let us make them proud.

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