Sometimes it’s not all about me.

Frontal assault, Gallipoli, 1915

So this morning I dragged myself out of bed at 5.20, and went to the dawn service here in Wellington.

ANZAC Day – for you non-New Zealanders/ non-Australians – is kind of a big deal for us. It’s on the 25th April every year in both Australia and New Zealand, and it remembers the soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (or the ANZACs) who fought in Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War One.

Our involvement in WWI is kind of a big deal for us, because it was a forging of ties for us here in NZ with those in Australia – the fact that both countries still hold national remembrance days for it on the 25th April kind of stands testament to that. It was also seen as New Zealand stepping up and taking its place in the Federal Commonwealth – kind of a big thing for our small, reluctant Dominion Status country.

The ANZAC legend has an impact on us New Zealanders… It has this indelible place in our National Identity.

Following WWII ANZAC Day has become a day of remembrance for all New Zealanders who have been lost to war. And for a small country there certainly were a lot of young men lost to war.

War is horrific. It has awful consequences. I personally don’t agree with commemorating war, but I do think that it is important to remember the lives lost. I think the men and boys who fell to war have earned the right to be remembered with honor by us New Zealanders.

There’s this bit in the dawn ceremony, where you’re standing pressed into in a crowd of people, every single one of them silent. And as the sky lightens just enough for you to see the profiles of the people around you these words surround you:

“They shall not grow 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.”

It always sends a shiver down my spine. And then you listen to the Last Post played mournfully on the trumpet… And I always wonder what it was like. The terror of war surrounding you. The conviction you were doing something right, or maybe the inability to turn back, or simply the fear not to act. The flipping of your stomach, the terrible weight of expectation. The noise of a thousand men around you waging hell on earth. Cold hands, cold ears, cold feet, and racing hearts. Panic. Confusion. Terror. Pain. The weight of your pack, your gun, your uniform. Mud, rain, and cold sweat-slicked skin.
They’re not exactly pleasant thoughts to be thinking… But then there’s nothing really pleasant about war is there?
That’s why I think it’s important for me to be there. For one day a year it’s important to me to put myself in those soldiers shoes, and honor their deaths. It’s important for my country to remember the human cost of war. There’s nothing glorious about it. Nothing worth celebrating. But all the same we owe them remembrance.

3 thoughts on “Sometimes it’s not all about me.

  1. It rained at ours but for a small town, we still got a couple of hundred plus about 150 marching.

  2. This is a wonderful post. Very well written. And a good reminder to those who forget that there is a difference between supporting or opposing a war, and supporting those who served.

    In the U.S. we have Memorial Day. I wonder, though, how many think of what the holiday represents, and how many just think of it as a three-day weekend?

  3. You sort of alluded to it in your post, but I think its pertinent to reiterate that ANZAC day is in no way a commemoration of war – rather it is, exactly as you said, a way of remembering the human cost of war.

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