Today is ANZAC day in Australia and New Zealand. Originally commemorating the 36,141 sailors, soldiers, and airmen of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, who were killed and wounded in the unsuccessful Dardanelles Campaign in WW1 that was focused on the landings at Gallipoli in modern Turkey. Today, ANZAC day has grown to be both a commemoration of the more than 133,081 members of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces who have died during or as a result of military service to our respective nations, as well as a day of recognition of the sacrifice of all those who have served our nations under arms.
I served for eight years in the Royal Australian Navy, and while my service was predominantly peaceful, I can assure you that the sacrifices made by the men and women in the armed forces, even in times of peace, are by no means insignificant. Warlike operations are again at another level of intensity. It leaves an indelible mark on all who face it. While my service was peaceful, many of my friends’ services were not. The horrors that they experienced and that our societies have proven incapable of confronting is something that stays with them always. Despite these burdens and the sacrifices we all made, we veterans remain rightly proud of our service.
ANZAC day is, therefore, rightly held to be a sacred day in our two nations. A day of contemplation and commemoration of sacrifices that our fellow citizens have made on our collective behalf. For us who believe that the purpose of life lies in promoting the welfare of our families and communities, ANZAC day sits as a reminder of the cost that the achievement of this purpose can require of us all.
War and the resultant death and destruction it brings is undoubtedly a great evil. Yet we must not forget that sometimes we must be willing to do a little evil to prevent a greater one. So, this year, let us again remember the sacrifices made on our behalf, the harm done in our name so that we can enjoy the fruits of peace and security. Let us pause and consider how fine the line between our present prosperity and the calamity of war truly is. Let us try to comprehend that, just as we sit today in peace and security, so too did all those who were soon to be lost in 1914.
But most of all, let us remember those men and women who sacrificed their future for ours. As the famous fourth stanza of Binyon’s poem For the Fallen goes:
“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.”
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