In the chilly, pre-dawn light, the crowd grows around the war memorial. It’s Anzac Day and the 100 year anniversary of the battle on the beaches of Gallipoli. Every year crowds gather all around Australia and New Zealand to remember these who have served so that we can have the freedoms we do as Kiwis and Aussies. It is my first attendance at an ANZAC dawn service.
The lights around the park dim and an almost reverent hush ripples through the crowd as a slide show begins on the big screen. Thousands of people, young and old alike, fall silent The first post is sounded, wreaths are laid and prayers offered. The large crowd reflects on the sacrifices made by the few over the last hundred years for the benefit of the many. Both national anthems are sung with pride.
At every ANZAC service, these words are uttered ‘They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; old age shall not weary them, nor years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget.’
A lone bugler plays The Last Post and two minutes of silence follow. Many have tears in their eyes as they remember lost or injured family and friends. As the final strains of the Last Post are played, I am remembering a conflict n another far away place and those I have lost in other conflicts. Although they weren’t Australian, it is somehow fitting to remember them today. I remember my dad and my aunt, both WWII vets, and their many sacrifices and the invisible scars they suffered. I remember another time that I heard the last post. It was played as a train full of young men, my brother one of them, on there way to basic training pulled out of the station. Many of them did not make it back alive.
As the service ends and the crowd begins to disperse, the sunrise colours the sky. It is a reminder that life goes on but this morning in particular, I will remember them – the fallen, the injured and those still serving. Thank you, to you and your families, for your service. Thank you for our freedom.