Friday, 25 April 2014

Remembering a special day

Hello everyone,
I had prepared my chat with you for this week but at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to make a special comment about today.

Today is ANZAC Day. For my readers around the world who are not aware of ANZAC Day, let me tell you it is one of the most sacred days in the Australian and New Zealand calendar.

It stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and signifies the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I.

We have a public holiday to remember it and thousands of us around the country attend dawn services.

It is a time of coming together to remember our fallen men and women and is one of those rare occasions when we acknowledge our Kiwi neighbours as the brothers-in-arms they are, and traditionally have been - except on the cricket pitch!

One ANZAC Day I found my self in Ireland with a group of tourists from many countries - among the Canadians, Koreans, Americans, Japanese and South Africans was a handful of Aussies and Kiwis.

At dawn on April 25, those of us from Australia and New Zealand, gathered in the misty Irish rain. It was cold and we were on the coast so we could hear the distant sea - it was haunting.

The group of us formed a circle, all holding hands. One of our group was a currently serving member of the Australian army travelling with us on his annual leave. He recited the traditional Ode:

"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."

I remember looking up at the hotel we were staying in and seeing our Korean friends watching silently acknowledging the sanctity of our occasion. They didn't attempt to interrupt us, they just watched and understood, perhaps they were thinking of similar commemorative days they recognise.

ANZAC Day has always been special to me but that particular ANZAC Day - 25 April 1997 - will stay with me forever.

And so now, as I leave to attend the dawn service here in Mornington, I ask all of you, regardless of your nationality, where your family is from, what your politics are, take the time to remember your fallen.

Lest we forget.

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