I stumble and stutter for the correct words to convey the immense emotions I feel when thinking about ANZAC Day, from my position of comfort and privilege.
Similarly to Australia Day, I am spending this ANZAC Day, for the very first time living abroad. It will be the first year of my life that I have missed out on going to an ANZAC Day service and going to the pub with my mates to have a few games of two-up afterwards.
I’ve never fought in a war, and given a choice I never will. I hope that I never know what it’s like to be surrounded by gunfire or explosions, or witness anyone die by violent and unnatural causes. As a result, I’d appear just as clueless and blank as most of those we see on television that also have no first-hand experience of war.
Explaining what ANZAC Day means to me (and by extension, what being an Australian means to me) is something that is at the forefront of discussion when I am talking to people from Britain. I guess because there isn’t really a British equivalent of days like Australia Day or ANZAC Day (they still celebrate Remembrance Day, but I guess that is a bit more general).
On previous Anzac Day’s after too many beers, and too many games of two-up I’ve overheard accusations that Anzac Day glorifies war, and I’ve fired back.
Whether or not Australia should have become involved in any battles, whether or not it was the right thing to do, and whether or not it was necessary, are all arguments for other days.
For me, Anzac Day is not about the politics of war. It’s about the supreme sacrifice that so many people have given for us to have the lives that we have today. It is about the courage to travel to a foreign land with little understanding of what was going on, it is also about mateship; never leaving anyone behind.
Our own life is the most precious gift we have and to risk that, for whatever reason, is a sacrifice that demands respect. To go away from your family into the unknown realms of battle, to the other side of the world demands immense respect.
Many times a day I overhear people complaining about having to do something trivial and inconvenient, and someone else saying, ‘poor you. I couldn’t imagine anything worse’.
Anzac Day for me is about reflecting on the reality of war, all that loss, it is ultimate futility and realising it’s a last resort that we, as a society, should do our utmost to avoid.
It’s about understanding the suffering, and the toll that combat took on their lives and affected their families.
As Australians generally, we are so very lucky to have a choice in this point in time, as to whether or not we wish to personally fight in a war, something denied in the past. At the moment in the world, many still don’t have that choice.
So I may not have marched in remembrance this year, or been able to go to the pub for a schooner and a game of two-up but this year, just as any it is important for me as an Australian to remember the sacrifice of those men and women who wanted to make the world a better place for people like me.
ANZAC Day March 2014 – Silverdale Rural Fire Brigade.