Part V of the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge
This is mainly for all the people reading this who live outside of Australia. Today (April 25) is ANZAC day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. We dedicate the day towards remembering all those who have served, suffered and died in the service of their country. The date itself is significant because it marked the first day of the Battle of Gallipoli, which was by far the most dark and devastating battle in Australia's history.
This year is the hundredth anniversary of that day. And I'm currently filled with endless amounts of patriotism. I woke up at 4:30 to attend the dawn service in the city, standing in front of the enormous South Australian War Memorial with thousands of others who share the same pride. There were closer services I could have gone to - one just 2 kilometers from my house. But I was swept up in the occasion and felt I had to do it properly.
One thing I've always admired about America is that they do patriotism better than anyone else. Their national anthem is so beautiful it sends a chill down my spine, as opposed to ours, which I find boring and archaic. But ANZAC Day is the day where we do patriotism right. Unlike Australia Day, where most people just take the excuse to get drunk or go to the beach (or both), people on ANZAC Day genuinely, respectfully reflect on how lucky they are to be living in this rich, free, loving country.
There's a particular ritual that happens during ANZAC Day celebrations that inspires this sense of pride. First the reciting of the Ode of Remeberance, a poem first published in 1914, as the first Great War was getting close. A member of the armed forces will stand in front of the congregation and recite verse 4 of the poem, a verse that practically every Australian knows by heart.
They shall grow not old, as we who 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.
The crowd repeats this last line, then a bugler will play The Last Post. The Last Post is a tune that the British Army would play to signal the end of a day or at the end of a battle to assure the wounded that it was safe to find their way home. It's a beautiful tune that gives me that same chill as the American national anthem.
It's particularly that last note that gets me. It leaves a question in the air, as if there's unfinished business. As if it will never be finished. It's a note of melancholy.
The Last Post is followed by a minute's silence, and ended with the speaker reciting the final line, Lest we forget. The bigger the crowd is, the more amazing the feeling is of being a part of it. It's now tradition for there to be an Aussie Rules football match between two of the country's biggest football clubs, Essendon and Collingwood. It's the biggest game of the year outside of the grand final and consistently gets 95-100 thousand spectators at the ground each year. I've never been, but just watching it on TV gives you an electric feeling.
Standing out in the cold at 6:15 this morning was one of the most peaceful experiences I've ever had. Everywhere I looked, the things I saw made me smile. Mothers and fathers were holding their kids, who seemed to have gotten the message that this was a time to be quiet and respectful. One little girl tried to stand up on a platform and slipped. A stranger caught her before she hit the ground and not only was her father grateful, but the little girl also looked as if she understood what she'd just been saved from. Someone dropped something and four people bent down to pick it up. People everywhere were wearing the medals that their parents and grandparents had won during service. And retired veterans hobbled around in their perfectly-kept uniforms, commanding nothing but dignity and respect from those around them. For just one day a year, practically all of Australia achieves that state of perfect harmony that everyone talks about. And the interesting thing is that it was borne out of literally the lowest, darkest moment in Australian history. Exactly 100 years ago today, Australia - a country that was really only 14 years old - suddenly grew up and became an adult. Since then, we've paid our respects to the people who sacrificed their own lives to make ours what it is today. It's why we all know that one verse off by heart...
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.
Lest we forget.