zenglican

Anglican, Zen Meditating, Trade Unionist, Liberal, Left Wing, Foodie

ANZAC Day

on April 25, 2013

ANZAC Day has always been significant for myself and my family. My two beloved grandfathers served in World War Two to great personal cost, though they would not have seen it that way. They both came home physically unscathed but emotionally was a different story. Not different however than the thousands of brothers in arms who returned with them.

My paternal Grandad served in the Pacific on Guadalcanal and my maternal Grandad in Egypt and Italy. They were both proud of their service but only one of them ever spoke of it.

Grandad Brown (my mothers father) only started to speak of his time in the war when he was a sick, prematurely elderly man. And he told his stories to his grandchildren. This was both a privilege and a gift. He adored us all and when he died on Anzac Day of 1983, peacefully after attending the dawn parade to remember his fallen cobbers, the day became even more significant.

Grandad Hercock (my fathers father) died six years later and his flag draped coffin was a reminder of the pride he took in the service he rendered to his country but rarely (if ever) spoke of.

My Mothers grandfather was a veteran of that campaign that will be forever etched in our nations history and psyche, Gallipoli. He survived the campaign again to speak rarely of it. The only thing he told his family was that he got nasty boils whilst there. Of the real horror he said nothing. He also died young, my mother was his adored oldest grandchild. The apple of his eye she lost his loving presence when she was in primary school. Another veteran who died to young, prematurely aged by his experiences in the war that should have ended all wars.

Our families attendance at the ANZAC memorials and the cemetery on Anzac Day began with the death of Grandad Brown and continues to this day.

This year however was different.

This year I attended the parade and service with my fiancée Chris. And for the first time he wore the medals he earned as a peacekeeper in East Timor and marched with the veterans, the youngest by many years.

I saw something yesterday that I have never seen in all my years of attending these parades and services. It has always been there but this year I noticed it myself for the first time.

The veterans assembled as they always do and began to get into formation. I was standing watching Chris and the other veterans and then a senior sergeant major sounding type began barking out orders. That’s when it happened, this man who I thought I knew so well changed before my eyes…and so I noticed did his elderly comrades. His back and head snapped up and into place. His eyes clicked into position and the muscle memory in his body snapped into action.

The man I knew was gone, he was someone else, somewhere else. I wonder how many wives and lovers see this happen and know where their men have gone. Somewhere they cannot follow, somewhere they would be frightened to go. I am lucky, Chris came back. He did not suffer the trauma of our forefathers, but there is trauma. It won’t affect his life expectancy like it did my grandfathers, but it has affected his life.

It will affect our lives, in many ways. Anzac Day gives us a day to remember, to grieve, and to be proud. There is little to celebrate in war, but it is part of our journey, it has made us who we are individually and as a nation. Chris was a peacekeeper, and still is in many ways. I am so proud of that. He is no longer a soldier, but that soldier is still in there.

My grandfathers carried their wounded soldier selves all their lives. The wounds never fully healed and they died early from them. They did what they had to do and they paid the price. It was high. Their friends and comrades paid with their lives. Because of this the horrors of occupation never came to our shores.

They never forget, their sinews and muscles remember, their minds remember, and to ensure it never happens again, that we only send our youth away to war as the last, most desperate measure, we too must never forget.

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