Today is Anzac Day. It’s a sacred day in Australia and New Zealand, and perhaps more sacred this year as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. Like most military remembrances, it is born in blood. The aim of the Gallipoli campaign was to take Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, for the Allies. It never happened. Instead, the forces fought to a stalemate that ended in December of 1915. By the time the Anzacs (and other Allied forces) were evacuated, losses on both sides were heavy, and the Anzacs had built a worldwide reputation for pluck, determination, and courage. The first celebration, if one can call it that, was held in 1916, a year after the landing. It wasn’t until 1920 that Anzac Day became a national day of commemoration of the more than 60,000 Anzac troops who died in the First World War
The celebration begins at dawn in memory of the time the troops made their landing at what is now called Anzac Cove. Events progress throughout the day. Although these days Anzac Day has been expanded to commemorate Australians who lost their lives in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping efforts, the main thrust is keeping alive the memory of WWI, and Anzac Day traditions have remained largely unchanged since the early 1930s.
As a Yank, I admire the purity of the day and the celebration. Here in the US we merged and moved so many of our holidays that few remember Memorial Day was originally May 30th, and there was a time when we celebrated two Presidents in February. Yet even here, we still celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11th. That’s another big day in Australia where it is known as Remembrance Day. Originally established to celebrate the end of WWI, it has since become a day to honor and remember all the men and women who have served their country.
Serving one’s country has fallen from favor these days. We seem to have forgotten that freedom is not free. It is bought and paid for by the young men and women who chose to serve their country. I am honored to be involved with a group of Future Marines who come to our home for physical training every Tuesday and Thursday. Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to hear Staff Sergeant Sanchez address his men. The occasion was the presentation of the Marine Corps Flag to Woody Woods. Woody at 103 served his country in WWII not in combat, but by building the airplanes that were so essential to the war effort.
When Staff Sergeant Sanchez introduced the group of Future Marines to Woody he said, “This man served his country and paved the way for your freedom. Now, Future Marines, it is up to you to pass that tradition on to the next generation. You are paving the way for your children and their children.” That just about says it all.
We are a military family. My husband served as a Marine and was commissioned a captain in the Air Force. We are passionate in the support of our military. To us days like Anzac Day resonate, as do Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. We don’t celebrate Anzac day, although we might this year. We do celebrate Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day like all Americans. Except our celebration days start with phone calls to thank friends and relatives who have served. What about you? Do you celebrate the memorial holidays?