ANZAC Day – It commemorates the sacrifice of Australian and New Zealand service men and women who have died in the service our great nations.
For many, ANZAC Day brings with it mixed emotions. It’s a day of mourning the loss of many who served before us and with us. But it’s also a celebration of mateship, camaraderie, and the achievements of the Australian and New Zealand militaries, past and present.
As I attended the Townsville ANZAC Day services in 2021; I knew there was a good chance it would be my last in uniform. It was a sombre and solemn feeling knowing that after many years of ANZAC Day being a large part of my personal and professional life, it would soon have a different meaning.
Historically, military marches have been reserved for the return of service men and women from active service in a particular campaign or theatre. Due to the nature of recent operational service and the reduction in the deployment of formed bodies, this practice is seldom used. Now, the ‘ANZAC Day march’ represents perhaps the most widely observed military activity in Australian society. It is, for many, the single most visible interaction between society and the military. Due to this, it’s often seen as a way to put the soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen ‘on display’ for the public to appreciate their hard work and dedication.
I always had mixed feelings when attending ANZAC Day services in the past. On one hand I agreed whole-heartedly with the premise of mourning our losses. On the other, I was concerned by the increasing commercialisation of the day. Most of us can’t begin to imagine the intolerable suffering that occurs on each side of a war. Yet we marched and stood before society being praised as the ones who were willing to endure and inflict the same hardship.
We must balance the memory of those who have fallen with the admiration for those who are willing to do the same, while remaining wary of not idolising our warriors or glorifying the death and destruction that is war.
Modern day service still brings with it considerable self-sacrifice and family sacrifice, and that must be recognised. All service members have signed themselves up to giving the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of our great nation if, and when, required to do so.
Additionally, many veterans have had their lives changed significantly due to service; many families have had to deal with the burden of service; and many veterans have lost battles with mental health.
With so many Units, RSLs, veteran groups and individuals marching and mourning at various services around the country, it can be easy to lose sight of what the day is about. I’m hopeful that ANZAC Day continues to be about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice, while being a day of inclusion. Every service person deserves to stand alongside their fellow veterans regardless of the part they played in serving the nation. From the newest soldier, to the most seasoned and decorated; we all made the same commitment to our country.
As I attend memorial services this year, it will be different. I’ll no longer be in uniform. I won’t be surrounded by my mates, but I’ll be with my family. A key difference to many other ANZAC Days of the past. I’ll be thinking about those who made that sacrifice, and the many more who were and are prepared to do the same. I’ll be standing alongside my brothers and sisters in arms, not to be idolised, but to remember those who fell, and those who continue to fall around us.
Lest We Forget.