ANZAC Day: We Remember the Sacrifices made.

They shall grow not old, as we that 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.

ANZAC Day is placed on the first day of possibly the greatest military boondoggle and fuck up of all times: The Gallipoli Campaign. On the 25th of April, 1915, a half-bungled landing, with barely a troopship getting the troops to the locations they were supposed to be, started the campaign.

It went downhill from there. In fact, the only truly successful part of the campaign was the withdrawal, that was performed with an efficiency and a near-zero casualty count that occurred at no other point in the campaign.

It resonated with a sense of Australianness that Austrailia Day will never achieve.

In many respects it is similar to the US Veteran’s Day – But in Australia, it signifies something more as well. It also has an undertone, though grim, of our Nation coming of age. Standing up amongst other nations. Almost like if you added Veteran’s Day to Independence Day and roll it into one in many ways

For me, after studying history for 20 years with a significant focus on Military History, it is a day to remember all the fallen. In some ways, it has become a day that holds a significant centrality to my thoughts along with Remembrance Day.

The Poem that has come to signify this, for me, speaks of any soldier fallen in any war. It is called For The Fallen, by Robert Laurence Binyon.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns for her dead across the sea,
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that 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.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again,
They sit no more at familiar tables of home,
They have no lot in our labour of the daytime,
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires and hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the night.

As the stars shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

It is a day for remembering a history that we should reflect on at the very least, if not be proud of. It is a day when people of all the ideologies, all the nationalities that have made up the melting pot Australian, should stop, just pause from the regular life, and take the time to think about the notion of sacrifice.

Word of warning for those who just wish to reflect on the day: STOP HERE, RANT INCOMING!

Now we get to the meat of the post. There is something I hear with increasing regularity which has gone from causing me a mild annoyance to downright anger over the years.

“ANZAC Day is about glorifying war.”

It is nothing of the sort. It is about respect. Respect for those among us who served, and their comrades who are no longer with us.

Most of all it is about respecting the sacrifices willingly made in time of war by so many soldiers.

The Second criticism that really gets me is

“Australian soldiers were not exceptional and should not be portrayed as such.”

The problem with this one is that it is not backed up by the historical record – There are commentaries from both sides in both wars praising the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. Their courage, skill and stubborn defiance in World War One is so clear on the record that the Turkish government treats Anzac Cove with immense respect. The respect they give it is just short of the respect given to a Holy Site. It is a matter of record how much they were respected in communications.

In World War Two they were involved in the Tobrok and Kokoda Campaigns, most significantly. On both sides of the world, the Australian force was massively outnumbered. Yet at Tobrok they stopped Rommel and the German forces cold. In Kokoda they stopped the Japanese Army cold.

These were both Exceptional achievements.

But my biggest problem with this criticism is it entirely misses the point of the day – to think back on the sacrifices made by all in wartime, but particularly by the soldiers. Many of them were hardly more than kids, but they fought with a gallantry, courage, and honor that is fast fading from the modern world.

That is another thing that is important to reflect on.

The final criticism I have – They always make these comments on the day before or the day itself.

For the Gods sake couldn’t they wait til after and let us reflect on this in peace? Apparently not. The most insulting arguments I’ve heard is ‘it is only appropriate for us to criticize Anzac Day on Anzac Day.’ This is one of the biggest fallacies I can hear, to be honest. Criticizing it, especially two or more days afterwards, would at least show respect for the people who respect the day.

Criticizing the day on April 25th is not only disrespectful to the people who respect the day, but to what it signifies for them.

But that’s a problem with the world today, isn’t it? If they criticized it two or three days later, their criticisms would get nowhere near the publicity.

Rather than try and respect others and what they find significant, people would rather get extra exposure than risk showing someone some respect. Publicity is all that matters to them.

This is what’s causing the disintegration of societies. It is no longer acceptable to show respect for the people with differing opinions to you. Instead, it is acceptable to condemn them, and if condemning them on a particular day, no matter how disrespectful that would be, would get you extra publicity? Fuck the disrespect, go for the publicity, is the opinion of too many.

They forget that this is a day for people who sacrifice things so others would not have to. They risk their lives, risk physical injury, risk serious mental harm. They risk their life long mental well-being and their lives. They did in all past wars and still do today. It is their day. That certain people cannot resist the temptation to disrespect those sacrifices is an extreme disappointment. Am I emulating them? I feel not. I feel I am fighting for their right to be respected.

I seriously consider delaying this post, or at least the second half of it. However, my reflection on the day has already been destroyed by those who have openly disrespected it. So I came to a compromise, one that I added with no little amusement. I placed a trigger warning for those who simply wanted the day to be one of reflection. The irony of placing a trigger warning as a radical centrist does not escape me. It is not something I would normally do in any circumstances. The circumstances of Anzac Day, what it means to so many, and what it should mean to so many more, are hardly normal.

Also, Clubs advertising ANZAC parties and sporting fixtures on ANZAC day that pump up the ticket prices? These should be banned. As in the people who try to profit off a day built on remembrance and respect? Make a buck of the sacrifices of others, sacrifices that they obviously cannot comprehend? Lock up those responsible and fine them into poverty. This is probably worse than the three above point in some ways, although most of the sporting events try to show respect and some don’t increase the standard ticket price. IF they respect the day, and price it like any other I have fewer issues with it. I still have qualms over the tendency of comparisons between the players, who are richly paid, and the sacrifices of the soldier, who is poorly paid and, since the 70s, demonized by parts of society. There is no comparison. The simplest way to fix the problem is to simply ban special Anzac Day promotional events, be they sport or buisness.

Perhaps now I’ve gotten some of the anger out of my system, I can return to a day of reflection myself.

Paul C. Middleton.

2 thoughts on “ANZAC Day: We Remember the Sacrifices made.

  1. I was born American. The son of a soldier, grandson of soldiers. I remember the first time I saw my mother’s father in his uniform with four stars on his shoulders. I didn’t know what that meant. (I was three! Sue me!) I knew right then that I wanted to be a soldier. Maybe not like him, but that was all I wanted to be. I started studying military history to have something intelligent to talk to him about and I kept studying it because it was fascinating.
    When I was seventeen, I was denied entry into the military due to an eyesight problem that apparently was genetic. The docs didn’t have a clue and still don’t. I had spent my entire life preparing to serve and suddenly I couldn’t. My grandfather took me aside as I wallowed in guilt, in anger and pain and he told me something that I remember to this day-

    ‘There are many ways to serve. Find some other way to honor me.’

    We lost him in 2005 but I did find a way to honor him. I write about soldiers. Not the battles, not the mind numbing boredom mixed with moments of sheer terror, but the after. What happens after you survive and have to go on. I have only published one book, but I hope to do more. In his memory and the memory of so many others who did what had to be done. They had many reasons, but they did it.

    Many take the sacrifices that soldiers, sailors and airmen make for granted. They assume that no matter what they do, those same soldiers, sailors and airmen will always be available to get them out of the messes they get into. To their credit, the military will try. They may not succeed, but they will try. (And then take all the blame for being asked the impossible over and over again and not able to do it every time because, IMPOSSIBLE!)

    Many will forget. It is politically correct to forget. To ignore the sacrifices that were made. To focus on the ‘now’ instead of the ‘then’. To denigrate anyone who dares to show respect, because respect is dead. Honor is dead. Loyalty is dead. Long live stupidity, angst and fear! That is the way of the world now and anyone who dares to remember must be shown their silliness and stupidity.

    I will remember and I know I am not alone. Maybe that is silly. Maybe that is stupid. I don’t care.

    1. No Kalenath, not all forget. Both my grandfathers and one of my grandmothers served.

      I will never forget, nor will many others.

      As long as we carry the flame forward, honor is merely lost, not forgotten. It will be needed one day, so we must keep the flame alive.

      A Part of keeping the flame of honor and sacrifice alive is remembering those who went before with honor.

      Keeping that memory alive will, I hope, be enough.

      I also tried to enlist, although admittedly I was older when I did. I wasn’t eligible due to a damaged knee. In Australia, all soldiers are riflemen first, no matter what other training they receive. I would not hold up well doing sprints, or running, for the long term with it.

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