Veterans Distinguished guests Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls.
I would first like to thank Mr Trevor Dixon, the President of the Kenmore-Moggill RSL sub branch, for the honour and privilege of being asked to speak here today. Time dims the memory of ordinary events, but not great events. In a nation’s history, great events – whether in peace or war – live in our memories regardless of time. They are deemed great not necessarily for what they achieved, nor for whether they were victories or successes. Rather, great events are distinguished by the quality of the human endeavour they called upon, by the examples they create for ordinary men and women, and by the legends they inspire.
So it is with ANZAC day.
On this day, in 1915, 100 years ago, a group of volunteer Australian and New Zealand soldiers found themselves wading ashore before dawn at a small beach on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. Many of these men were only teenagers, some as young as 16. All were anxious to prove their courage and national identity.
They joined British and French forces and fought in a campaign designed to relieve pressure on our ally, Russia, by opening up permanent and safe sea communications with eastern
Europe and bringing the Balkans on to our side. By this it was hoped that the duration of the war would be shortened considerably. But the overwhelming strength of the Turks and their bravery, prevented the allies success.
Over the eight months following the landing, those young ANZACs underwent a ‘trial by ordeal’. In total 36,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers were killed or wounded at Gallipoli. But the shock news of casualties, far from weakening this country’s resolve at that time, actually served to strengthen it, for the recruiting rate increased – all volunteers.
In those terrible battles, young Australians earned a reputation for courage, self-reliance, selflessness and mateship. Their ANZAC spirit, has endured and been handed down ever since to all the Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen who followed them.
Over the last 100 years soldiering has changed significantly so today I will attempt to give you an insight of soldiering what it means to a younger veteran today.
When I was in Afghanistan a journalist asked a soldier ‘what would a soldier of World War 1 think of today’s soldier? The response was blunt and straightforward and those of you who know soldiers will know that I have cleaned this up a bit. He said that ‘they would think we are soft’. When asked why? He explained that ‘we have good shelter and food and technology available to us soldiers back than didn’t have’ ‘We wear armour to protect us and have vehicles that are designed to save lives’.
I’ve been asked this question before myself and I that I would never presume to relate to the extreme trial and test endured by those who forged the Anzac Legend in Gallipoli, I don’t feel worthy of the association.
But when I think back of the infantrymen and special forces that were carried in the back of my unit’s Chinooks I’ve come to the conclusion that today’s soldier is not soft, warfare has evolved and soldiers have evolved with it.
The History books tell us that Australian soldiers have always had a reputation for being fierce fighters in battle and this has not changed. When more information becomes available to the Australian public about some of the battles that took place in what seemed like a daily basis in Afghanistan, you will understand that this has not changed. Today’s soldier shows the same bravery, mateship and the dry wit of adversity … and above all those same ideals that go by the names of duty and honour.
Something that I learnt in Afghanistan is that Australian Soldiers do not fight because we hate what is in front of us; we fight because we love what we have left behind.
Everything an Australian soldier has done over the last 100 years would not have been possible without the love and support of their families. Rarely do you hear a speech on ANZAC Day about the role of the wife’s, husband’s, girlfriend’s, boyfriend’s and family’s play. But the role they play is vital, without this love and support serviceman would not be able to concentrate 100% on their duties while at war….. Serviceman spends time away from home like no other profession and sometimes we are required to leave at a moments notice. Serviceman have some idea about war and what they are about to get themselves into, but families do not. They are left to worry about their significant others, thinking the worst whenever the phone rings and knowing that no news is good news. So today when we pause to remember what our soldiers, sailors and airmen have sacrificed, take a moment to reflect on what sacrifices our families have made and what sacrifices they continue to make after we return from war.
Some say this day glorifies war, but every veteran will be the first to say that their greatest wish is that their children and this nation may never have to witness the horrors of war again. Anzac Day is not about glorifying war.
Today is a day for paying tribute to great sacrifice, not only of those serving but of the family left behind. It is a day to say thank you to all current and former members of our defence forces, regardless of the time they served and it is a day of quiet reflection on what a lucky nation we live in. It is a time to reflect on Australia’s commitment to continue to contribute to peace in other parts of the world.
It is heartening to see the increasing number of people, especially our younger generations, attending these services and the ANZAC day march. To all Australians, ANZAC day is a tradition, paid for in blood and celebrated in our freedom. It is a day in which not only do we salute the ANZACs, but in paying tribute to them, we also take the opportunity to invigorate our national spirit and pride. I thank you for coming to show your respects today and to honour those who’ve served and hope that you continue to do so for years to come. By your presence here I know there is no doubt in your hearts and your minds that today is especially significant. ANZAC day is a great Australian and New Zealand tradition. It is celebrated all
over the two nations and wherever Australians are overseas. It is our day – a day to remember with affection the courage of people and the value of friendship – to honour the dead and to acknowledge those who suffer still from the effects of war. We do not celebrate victory or glorify war – we celebrate the human spirit – the spirit of ANZAC.
Today is a special day and whilst we pay tribute, give thanks and reflect most importantly all stand here today shoulder-to-shoulder to remember. We remember those who paid the supreme sacrifice, ordinary Australian men and women, so that we, and the people of other nations, can live in peace. We remember all people, whether service personnel, their families or civilians, of every nation, who suffered or continue to suffer through war. We remember today’s veterans’, the young men and women who are returning from duty in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. We remember those who continue to suffer through their physical or mental scars, including those next of kin whose grief and sense of loss can never be eased.
So here we stand today, along with thousands of others to remember.
By coming here this morning, by standing quietly and reflecting, we are saying that we have not forgotten and will not forget.
Today we remember them all — and with fondness … because they are ours.