Blogs by Vena McGrath
Anzac Day 2007
4/24/2007 3:49:30 PM
Wednesday 25 April 2007, 9.05 am Sydney Australia EST
Today is cool, and wet in Sydney. The rain is welcome and rejoiced, however it must have put a definite dampener and chill onto the Dawn Services held in Sydney this morning, and in particular the one held in the city at the Cenotaph.
I have just read the news online and see that thousands of people braved the rain and the chill of this morning to attend the Dawn Service and laying of the wreath at the Cenotaph. They were there in remembrance of those that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the ill-fated landing at Gallipoli, 92 years ago. I heard a digger say recently words to the effect that soldiers do not perform brave deeds or die for God or country, they do it for their mates.
Anzac Day 2007 began at 3.30 am with many taxis arriving in the city of Sydney bearing the diggers, proudly decked out with their many medals affixed to their chests. There are no Anzac Cove (Gallipoli)veterans left now and the diggers are returned servicemen from the Second World War (the majority of them would be in their 80s) and other conflicts in the years following that war.
It was reported that many shed tears during the Dawn Service and stood by the Cenotaph in reverance and remembrance with tears flowing down their cheeks. No matter what anyone thinks about war, these men and women who died (and boys)deserve to be remembered for giving their lives for what they believed was a just cause. There would be very few families of Australians that were not touched by the wars of the 20th Century, either by death of loved ones or the return of loved ones, male and female, that were battle scarred for life from the traumas they suffered.
As in the last 10 years or so, many young people were in attendance at the Dawn Service and many also made the pilgrimage to Anzac Cove at Gallipoli for the Dawn Service held there each year. These young people are realising just how many men and women that died were their age, and they salute their bravery, even if they don't agree with what they died for.
On the 25th April 1915 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. I personally see that landing as men being sent to slaughter, with little or no chance of survival, at the will of the war mongers. That is my opinion totally. The landing was the start of a campaign that lasted 8 months and resulted in 25000 Australian casualties, with 8,700 either killed in the battle or died later from their wounds.
The word Anzac is of course derived from Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Anzac Day was officially named on 25 April 1916 by the Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce, at the first anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli.
By 1920 Anzac Day ceremonies were held across Australia and all States designated the day as a Public Holiday. The commemorations continued through the 1930s and 1940s with World War II veterans joining parades around Australia.
In ensuing decades, returned servicemen and women from conflicts in Malaya, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, along with veterans from allied countries and peacekeepers joined the parades.
In the 1960s and 1970s the number of people attending services fell as they questioned the relevance of the day. There was also the impact of the Vietnam War, a war no one wanted and one that I remember vividly as a teenager. I can remember being terrified that my male friends and relations may be called up. We were all so young, baby boomers, born of parents that had survived the Second World War and knew the horrors of it from relatives that had fought and memories of others that had died. We didn't want a war in our lives.
Shame came with the war and after it, from my perspective anyhow. We saw the war graphically by way of television and press, something our parents didn't have much of in the Second World War. Our minds were no doubt manipulated too by the press and by what we saw which was of course always the atrocities to the American troops and allies, such as Australia. We didn't see the atrocities to the Vietnamese people, who like us, were casulties of a war they didn't want. In the case of the Vietnamese people though, they were there, in the midst of killing and carnage that men had devised, while the rest of us were safe in countries far away.
When the boys returned from Vietnam I can remember them being shunned, treated like they had done something wrong. They only did what they were told to do, and most were conscripted - 18 year old kids were given guns and told to go and kill other human beings. We as Australians had no war with Vietnam, but our Government was high on a tide of alliance with the USA and the death of a few really didn't seem to matter to those who made the deal. I would like to see those that make the deals go off to the front line with a gun - perhaps there would be no more wars if they did! Kind of like if men had to give birth - most definitely there would be many fewer children born around the globe (if any).
I can remember that the Vietnam veterans were treated dreadfully and shamefully by many Australians and the Government, in the non-acknowledgement of their war wounds and suffering. They were not allowed march in the Anzac Day parades and were not acknowledged in the services (as far as I can recall). They were spat on when they returned, shunned by friends and the general population. The media can be blamed for mind manipulation of the masses (again in my opinion). It took many years before the tide turned and perhaps those that made movies in that era are to be applauded because they, in the main, told the stories of the war truthfully. Whilst this truth cast a shadow over what went on over there and the atrocities carried out by the united forces, it also showed a very human side of the war and the end result traumas of those boys. I watched those movies, and still do, because I believe that we all need to be reminded of the carnage and human sacrifice that was made in the name of what?
Vietnam vets finally were invited to participate in Anzac Day commemorations and proudly took their places in the marches with their medals. They pushed their mates in wheelchairs and supported those maimed. As always, mates helping and protecting mates. Australians all owe them a huge apology for the way they were mistreated and I take this opportunity to express my apology even though I personally had nothing to do with any of it. Perhaps that is why I apologise, for not being brave enough to join those that fought for recognition of those men and women.
In 2005 there were some 20,000 attendees at Gallipoli for the Dawn Service at Anzac Cove. Many were traditionalists and baby boomers, but from what I have read many more were from the younger generations. That is heartening so long as they are there to remember the dead and idiocy of why they died, and not to glorify war.
We all have different views on all of the wars during the 20th century, but if you read some of the stories from the returned servicemen, you will see that they saw the wars as being useless and the deaths of their mates a waste of precious life.
I dread to think that we in Australia would ever again be exposed to the terror of conscription and the waste of the lives of boys. I can relate to those that refused to go and were subsequently sent to gaol. What gives men the right to gaol people who do not want to kill others? On the other hand, men that kill men and aren't involved in a war are gaoled for murder. And yet boys are given guns and ordered to commit murder. It appears to be a case of when it suits, murder is acceptable, while the big boys sit in their safe bunkers and play chess with the lives of those that they consider as dispensible.
I have a song I often listen to called 'War Pigs' by Black Sabbath. In my opinion (again) that song should be played on every radio station and every TV channel every day of every year because it spells it out graphically what war really is. If you get a chance, find the song and listen to the words. They are relevant to every day, not just when the song was written and released.
So those are my thoughts on this wet Anzac Day in Sydney Australia. You may agree, you may disagree, but as a great believer in freedom of speech, I have written them down today, from the heart.
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