What are Kiwis doing here on ANZAC Day?
After reading your reply in Facebook re the “Is ANZAC Day not taught in schools or what?” post. I have humbly decided to submit an emotive piece I wrote 6 years back. It is the result of being asked “What are Kiwis doing here on ANZAC Day?” and listening to “patriotic” public beat their chests while I stared into a beer.
As we prepare to take off for the weekend and travel or stay at home with family this ANZAC weekend; I ask that for a moment you ponder what ANZAC Day means for all of us.
- For some it is another long weekend and we slowly count down the days to the middle of the year leading out of the “midwinter valley” back to Queens Birthday weekend and Labour Weekend.
- For some it is a chance to go to the pub and commemorate with 2-up and a few too many schooners or midis.
- For some, a chance to catch-up on the domestics of house and garden or start on those long promised projects.
- For some, a walk amongst the cenotaphs, grave stones and war memorials that pepper and salt the land in NZ and Australia.
- For some, an embarking on a car trip or short holiday from which they may tragically not return.
- For some, the Post Traumatic Stress returns in full and the nightmare wakes one well before dawn as one remembers contacts, battles and decisions of events long gone; but all too fresh in the mind.
For others, a chance to exult the glory of wartime sacrifice to beat the national drum and dream of glories un-won in the civilian arena.
…..These experiences are ANZAC Day.
Not just the cold morning sea breeze in Gallipoli, not just the mist hugging the ground at Paschendale, not just the open ground of Beersheba in Gaza, not just the rustling trees in Papua New Guinea, the dusty town of Tobruk, Minefields of Angola and Cambodia, Jungles in Borneo, Malaysia and Vietnam. Deserts in North Africa, Palestine and Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan and the 38th Parallel in Korea.
….This too is ANZAC Day.
It is also the sound of a friend or mate laughing at a joke, the foamy gurgle of a beer being poured in a mess far from home, the rain falling on your roof of your observation post /bivouac in the bush, the heart break in a phone call from home, whispering farewell to your kids who are asleep as you leave to go on a Tour of Duty to some far off land, the sound of your heart pounding before going on patrol, the sob of a soldiers wife or partner given “the news”, the crack and whirr of bullets flying past your head, the roar of turbine engines on the chopper, the look of surprise on your troopers face when he gets wounded and the heart ache writing a letter to families informing them of the loss of a loved one, the apprehension and joy of seeing the coastline of beloved home disappear or appear beneath the wing of your transport aircraft.
Know that any of the soldiers, intelligence officers, air force personnel, naval staff and logistics crew would happily swap it for other experiences on ANZAC Day such as…
A decent meal of Weetbix that did not involve dehydrated milk, the chance to throw the footy ball or rugby ball around, Watching the same said footy or rugby on TV or radio, Hearing your kids and family call your name, The hug and smell of your partner or husband or wife, Living in a house or building with proper walls, Fresh air and open spaces, Officers who are not still too “green” ,A decent bed, real food that did not have the letters MRE on it (Meals Ready to Eat), Not having to speak in acronyms, Going fishing or hunting.
All of these experiences are ANZAC Day. Because most of all ANZAC Day is about Sacrifice and what is also termed as Mateship.
Veterans and Current serving personnel do their job because they are willing to sacrifice what civilians have every day, in order to do their jobs.
The soldiers in World War I and World War II may have not realised what they were getting themselves into because most just wanted to see the world. However once the shooting, bombing, artillery and hand to hand combat began, only then does it dawn upon them what has been given up whilst they fight in some foreign land. This is when they fight, not for king and country, not for a flag, not for your officers, but the soldier along side of you, but for each other.
Mateship, Camaraderie or Esprit de Corps is when you and your fellow soldiers band together to get each other out of the fighting, the mess and the horror of war….to get the job done and get home…maybe to take up the next mission.
Duty to your country, Politicians speeches and propaganda mean nothing because the only person sheltering in the mud whilst enemy troops look for you or rain down steel rain upon you is the other soldiers on whom you rely… to get home to family and familiar surroundings. It matters not which religion they are, what colour their skin or from which country. They fight for each other.
Sacrifice and Mateship in wartime are concepts used loosely mostly by politicians and civilians beating their chests. But it can apply to we who will remember them, we who are left behind.
Sacrifice – we sacrifice our pride and illusions of differences and work together that we hold onto that which matters so to avert the bringing about of war.
Mateship– we help and assist each other overcome mutual hurdles and barriers so that we make sure that ALL avenues are explored before we embark on the path to war.
Thus we may make their deaths and our losses…..have meaning… and hope.
Let us not forget either those who return home incomplete…parts of them left on the battle field or in some gore-filled field station (hospital) or suffering Post Traumatic Stress (shell shock) for whom ANZAC Day and it’s memories never ever end.
Whether in a wheelchair or rehabilitation, endless sessions with psychiatrists, alcohol and drugs or waking up in a tangle of sheets, sweat and the concerned expression of family members.
Frequently war is exulted and glorified….by those who have not experienced it in full, but for those whose bodies lay unclaimed, buried, lost and their spirits forever on patrol in a foreign land or here at home; it is doubtful they would want us to repeat their experiences.
Ask the NZDF and ADF personnel if they consider themselves ANZAC Legends… they will tell you they were only doing their job.
So let us remember, commemorate and take lessons from those lives on this ANZAC day… in which ever degree you deem appropriate.
I myself always buy 2 midis of beer after attending Dawn Service, one for me….the other for those who never made it home…..We will remember them.
Kia Ora/G’day everyone. My name is Grant Turuwhenua – 42 years old and married to a good Aussie woman who puts up with my crap. Living in Cooranbong NSW, I have been in Australia 10 years and don’t intend to leave anytime soon! Being a self-professed nerd, I’ve worked in government, law, employment services and banking, but prefer now working in road construction (where it’s more honest and is outdoors!). As an amateur writer I hope to encourage discourse on issues affecting diggers and those who walked before us. –– Onward