Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 5.15am. I groaned, set it to snooze for five minutes but turned on the light. I lay there for five minutes waking up, then hauled myself out of bed, dressed and went out into the dark.
It was, of course, 25th April 2015. ANZAC Day. This one was a little special. It was the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli – a battle that forged the ANZAC spirit and the start of ANZAC day’s history. I drove into town and realised that even though I was nice and “early” more than double the numbers from last year were going to be in attendance. I turned around and drove back towards work and parked near the Bridge of Remembrance (still cordoned off and being repaired from the earthquakes in 2011), got out of my car and walked the rest of the way.
I managed to get there just after 6am so I was there in time for the parade. The service started and was very similar to previous years, apart from the fact that there just seemed a bit more emotion in the air. I welled up a few times, right from the parade, the applause, and the 102 year old veteran who was the parade’s lead. The Last Post always gets me at the end as well.
After the service I usually go up and leave my poppy on the cenotaph – but it was so crowded. After about five minutes of standing and not getting any closer, I decided to leave, somewhat disappointed, but perhaps I’d get back later in the day. In the end, as I walked back to the car, I realised we actually have Remembrance Park, right beside the Bridge, so I wandered to the statue in the centre and left my poppy there – a couple of others had done the same thing.
Afterwards a group of friends had arranged a breakfast and we met at the cafe, warming up with hot drinks and a hearty meal before getting on with our weekends. It is the first time ANZAC Day has been “Monday-ised” – meaning we all get a day off on Monday as well. My family in Australia don’t have this and I myself have some mixed feelings about it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a day off as much as anyone, but to me ANZAC Day isn’t about a holiday, lying in. It’s about remembering the sacrifice of men and women through 100 years of war. I lost three great-uncles in WWI, an uncle in WWII, my uncle served in Korea, and a cousin has served in Afghanistan. Those that died, shouldn’t die in vain, and those that have served and survived have fought for what we think is right, or helped in peace-keeping missions that we can only trust helps. We must and we will, remember them.