I was still a kid in 1987 when Australia belatedly welcomed home our Vietnam Veterans.
I can’t really remember what conversations I was part of, or overheard. At least not in any detail.
But I remember, deep in my bones, how important that march was for those returned service personnel.
How viscerally important.
It didn’t heal old wounds. At least not completely.
But it was, in many respects, if not a new beginning, at least a new place from which to continue.
My father was a Vietnam Veteran.
He bore the emotional scars of his service.
And the emotional scars of his — our — nation’s shameful treatment of our Veterans.
That Welcome Home parade showed me how important commemoration is.
It says ‘we know’.
It says ‘we remember’
It says ‘we care’.
Today is ANZAC Day.
It is, for our nation, and for our cousins, allies and comrades in arms in New Zealand, a sacred day.
It might be the most important day on our national calendar.
As it was last year, this ANZAC Day commemoration will be different to most.
Many Dawn Services have been cancelled.
Many marches have been scaled back.
But, as we do every year, today we will remember.
We will, in our own ways, stand in solidarity. In solemnity. In silence.
I was fortunate to get one of a limited number of tickets to the scaled down Dawn Service at the RSL Sub-Branch of which my father was, for a time, President.
As the dawn breaks today, I will be where I’ve been on more ANZAC Days than I can count.
So many times that I think I could probably recite the order of service by heart.
Yet the service never fails to affect me.
So much, sacrificed by so many.
The soldiers, sailors and aviators who paid the supreme sacrifice.
Those who returned, with the physical, mental and emotional scars of their service.
They went because their country asked them to.
They served in our name.
The duty falls to us, to remember.
These are the words of the ANZAC Dedication:
At this hour, upon this day, ANZAC received its baptism of fire and became one of the immortal names in history.
We who are gathered here think of the comrades who went out with us to battle but did not return. We feel them still near us in spirit. We wish to be worthy of their great sacrifice.
Let us, therefore, once again dedicate ourselves to the service of the ideals for which they died.
As the dawn is even now about to pierce the night, so let their memory inspire us to work for the coming of the new light into the dark places of the world.
This morning — today — we remember.
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.
Lest We Forget.