I have a confession to make. When I was growing up I had very little understanding of or appreciation for ANZAC Day. My earliest recollection of this holiday involved being at Primary School and being encouraged to have a moment’s silence where we were asked to think about someone who had died in the war. I was maybe 6 or 7 years old and I did not know of anyone who had died in conflict. I distinctly remember thinking about my Uncle David who died in a road accident when I was 1 because that was the closest I could get.
As I continued to grow I began to form the opinion that ANZAC Day’s primary purpose was to glorify war and violence and give returned soldiers an opportunity to get drunk and reminisce with their soldier mates. This was based on how I observed people behaving on this day, year after year. To be fair, the education that is provided to our children now about the purpose of ANZAC day is far more extensive and factual than I ever recall in my school years.
The moment this understanding dramatically changed for me was when I was 18 years old and I watched the movie ‘Gallipoli’ with some friends of mine who were part of the Australian Army Band Corps. Sometime in the closing scenes of that movie it dawned on me that the men who went to fight and die for us were not the older people who marched each year, but people of my age, and younger. This might sound strange, but I had never really thought about the fact that those who died had lives and families and an expectation that they would return to take up where they left off.
These were ordinary men and boys who were trying to do the right thing and stand up to stop injustice. Yes, there might have been some sense of adventure and an opportunity to ‘see the world’ but they were under no misunderstanding that this was not serious business.
I find that the approach to ANZAC Day this year is even more poignant as it is so close to the Easter celebration. The theme of sacrifice we have been focussing on for the past few days ties in with the upcoming memorial focus.
Sacrificial love automatically prompts me to remember the verse in the Bible that says: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John chapter 15 verse 13) which is often the story commonly retold about the battlefield. When I think about the sacrificial love story of Easter the verse that speaks even louder is found in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So now as each year rolls around I take the time to reflect on the depth of sacrifice that people paid on my behalf – on the battlefield and on a wooden cross in Jerusalem. I pray you will be able to as well.