Before the sun breaches the horizon, a lone bugle will sound ‘The Last Post’.
It’s the final farewell…a message for the fallen; your job is done, rest in peace.
And then – in the darkness – we’ll fall silent.
…… Because the words thank you will never be enough.
The ANZAC spirit and our nation’s identity were forged on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915.
Nearly a century later and ANZAC Day….well, it’s a great day off. A chance to sleep in and not think about work.
Some Aussies will flick past the parade on the TV and give a passing thought to what ANZAC Day means.
Some might even head out to a parade or a dawn service. Who doesn’t love a chance for a game of two-up and a beer at 10 in the morning?
For some, it’s a day of community and respect. A day to be proud of our history.
Can I tell you what ANZAC Day means to me?
ANZAC Day is not just for the fallen. It’s also for the battle weary; men and women who came home, and brought the war with them.
It’s for my hero – my husband. A man who has left me behind, countless times. A man who changes, just a little bit, every time he comes home. The man who still looks like the boy-band heartthrob I met at 18, but who can never tell me what he’s seen or what he’s done.
On this one day of the year, he doesn’t have enquiring faces searching his eyes for signs of damage. He’s with his mates, who never need to ask. They already know.
On ANZAC Day, I see the snowy hair and lined faces, I see the biker jackets and the tatts, I see the clean cut boys and girls who are still enlisted – all smiling on “their” day, backslapping and reminiscing – but all carrying a scar that only their mates can see…. they see the battleground in the eyes of their brothers and sisters in arms.
It makes me want to say:
“What you went through was more than we should ever ask of a fellow human being.
While I can’t fully grasp what you did or how it changed the way I live today, I want to say thank you for doing it.
Thank you for leaving your family, your friends and your home.
Thank you for travelling for months on end, to sit in a pit of horror and watch your mates die around you, while you wait for your own end to come.
Thank you for doing that, even though you might not have known what you were getting yourself in for, or maybe you had no choice.
Maybe you hated every minute and cried silently at night wishing with every cell in your body that you could go home and be safe and warm again.
Maybe you hated yourself for being weak enough to want your Mum.
Maybe you think you made no difference because when you came home, you were spat on and called a child murderer.
I wish I could take that back for you. I know you were just doing what you were asked to do. What you were told to do. I’m sorry if we ever made you feel otherwise.
And to our newest diggers; I’m sorry if we don’t acknowledge that it’s hard for you too. I’m sorry that we don’t give you credit for the work you’re doing. I’m sorry that we talk more about Australia’s insignificance and futility instead of talking about your progress and contribution.
I’m sorry we never take a moment, to honour your mates, before using their deaths as a reason to start polling public support for the war.
You’ve faced an entirely new kind of warfare. You’ve fought an invisible enemy. They don’t wear uniforms. They don’t rest at night. They’re everywhere and nowhere and your life could end at any second without warning. They can reach you from the safety of a mountaintop, kilometres away. They can reach you with every step you take on roads, littered with explosives. That’s a torture we can never understand; our generations’ shellshock.
I hope, one day, we’ll know how much you did and the difference you made. Then we’ll stop questioning the politics and just say….. thank you.”
General Douglas Macarthur said: “The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
They’re the ones who are haunted by sights, sounds and smells that we will never know. They’ve driven down dirt roads in the Middle East, not knowing which direction they could be hit from. Knowing that each metre of ground crossed, brings new threat from below.
They’ve faced kids, the age of their own children, who’ve turned weapons on them. Tiny faces that haunt them.
But they’re the ones who can say, without a doubt, that they’re making a difference. It’s why they go back. They don’t enjoy it. They feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s what they’re driven to do. For us.
It’s why they feel so alone when they hear us say we don’t really care, or that we think our forces are useless over there…
It’s hard to comprehend how they’ve made our lives better. We’re spoilt enough that we’ve never had to learn the alternative.
So, even though you’re probably in desperate need of a good sleep in and you’re dreaming of sitting in your PJs until 3pm watching old movies – just take a moment to think of our brave men and women.
And if you do make it out of the house. Buy a digger a beer. Ask where they served. Talk to them about what they remember. Their pride can be heartbreaking; and you might just feel some pride yourself.
Let them know we haven’t forgotten them. We never will.
Lest we forget.
Lauren Dubois is Mamamia’s Canberra-based political contributor. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Will you be getting up for the Dawn Service?