We Will Remember
I went to the Liston ANZAC day ceremony on Thursday. It was probably the first ANZAC day event I’d attended since a schoolgirl. I wasn’t sure what to expect; whether it would be a casual gathering or something more elaborate. I found it was a mix of both. The presentation was formal and dignified. The local attendees stood on the small lawn area that fronts the Liston War Memorial. At our back was the Mount Lindesay Highway, close enough that you wouldn’t want to step backwards to get a better photo of the memorial, just in case you got collected by a 4WD coming past.
There was no dress code, people wore anything from jeans and boots to full army regalia. Anyone with a medal of some description wore it proudly on their chest, including a 5-year old with his great-grandfather’s collection. I’d left my Mickey Mouse badge at home. Some kilts were in order, as a bagpiper played during the ceremony. One daring man wore a dress, but it was all white and I think he gets paid to stand around in a frock.
Apart from the few little hiccups that you’d expect from an outdoors event like this, I think it went quite well. We who read the order of service were able to set the precedent for those in which way to face and not look too confused. Fortunately at the time of the Australian Anthem I was relieved to hear only once verse played on the PA system. I know we all would have been guiltily mumbling our way through, if the second verse was played.
On the way home hubby and I were discussing this failing of Aussies to learn the whole anthem. I opened up my student diary* and read the second verse of Advance Australia Fair:
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross, we’ll toil with hearts and hands
To make this Commonwealth of ours renowned of all the lands
For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share
With courage let us all combine, to advance Australia fair
“Hmm,” said Hubby. “Maybe we should all sing the second verse more often.” I agreed.
Back to the ceremony. The most significant part of the morning’s program was the bugler playing the Last Post, followed by a minute’s silence. As the group of old and young, unemployed and financially secure all united in stillness, there was connection. There is something so powerful in ritual - not listening, or tuning out, or watching the birds in the trees (although they were a bit distracting). But pausing in contemplation of why we were at the Memorial in the first place.
I never met my relatives who fought in wars; I have no close bond to that part of Australia’s history. But seeing the dedication of the retired Lieutenant Colonel who saluted the flag in devotion and the army reservist who took his flag raising duties as seriously as a surgeon would undertake his operation, I was brought to admire this passion that people can dedicate to a cause. The cause of freedom, of democracy and mateship.
We were gathered under a tree whose blazing red leaves waved from outstretched branches; blowing in the wind and fluttering down to rest at our feet. We remembered the fallen. Our voices combined to sing Abide with Me; it was truly a community effort. Afterwards we shared and chatted over scones and Anzac biscuits. In less than 24 hours we would find out that one of our neighbours had lost his battle with cancer, on that same day.
We will remember.
* Why a student diary? Because I am a student of life. Or perhaps I go to the ‘school of hard-knocks’. And great scholar that I am, now I can’t think of any other relevant corny lines. But really, student diaries are good and cheap.