The rest of the world may not know much about us, may confuse us (how Kiwis hate that!), may not be able to locate us on a map, or may pronounce place names incorrectly, or, worse still, may think we are one and the same. And while we do differ and are distinct, there are several things that Australia and New Zealand have in common but nothing seems to unite our two countries more than ANZAC Day. In both countries it is a statutory holiday. In both countries it is marked by a memorial service (more often than not a Dawn Service). In both countries the dead are remembered - those that gave their all for their country and its freedom - and the living servicemen and servicewomen honoured.
Removed as we are from the realities of war by time and distance, it is often easy to forget the sacrifice paid by those who have gone before. Only recently was I made aware of the price my father-in-law paid. I knew about his injury and the fact that he was on an army operating table on his twenty-first birthday; I knew that he named his eldest son after his best friend who fell at his side; I knew that he chose not to talk about his experiences until much later in life; but the nightmares, the mental impact, I had not considered, at least as far as he was concerned. And when I do consider, I can't help but wonder how many others nursed severe unseen wounds, mental and emotional. For some, they may have thought the friends they left behind in unmarked graves had it easier.
I don't know and I was never brave enough to ask those questions of my father-in-law but I am grateful. Grateful for his willingness to go to war, to put his life on hold, and even on the line if need be, to protect a way of life that we often take for granted.
Which is why we can never forget. Had they not gone and fought, our history for the last one hundred years may have been very, very different.
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.
(From Laurence Binyon's poem, For the Fallen.)