I have never been to an ANZAC dawn service. I can’t say why. I’m sure I have had a good excuse every time, but at my age there is no reason that I should not have been to at least one. I am more than a little bit ashamed. I can feel my friend Kirrin tut tutting as she reads this all the way from Canberra.
Today I have been impressed with the number of facebook posts, tweets and Instagram photos from dawn and other ANZAC services all over Australia, New Zealand and various other locations in the world. Many people of different generations set their alarms, arose, dressed themselves, braved the VERY early morning and continued to remember those who have served.
The first ANZAC day was declared on April 25th 1916, one year after the troops had landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. This year is the 98th Anniversary of that landing.
There was discussion about whether or not we would go, in the end we packed the car with picnic gear, snacks, kids and an esky and headed out on Sunday afternoon to the Australians Within Atlanta ANZAC celebrations, held at the home of the New Zealand Honorary Consul in Atlanta.
It was an hour and half drive from our house, my husband said by the time we got there it felt like ten. Despite being able to successfully navigate a twenty four hour cycle covering multiple flights, continents and airports our kids somehow are not great car travelers. Fights (physical), arguments, ‘I’m bored’ and the famous ‘Are we there yet?’ the first of these being before we had left our street were fairly free flowing. At one point there was a game of ‘I spy’ and the World’s Angriest Six Year Old (WASYO) old spotted something starting with ‘I’, after we all gave up the answer was revealed as ‘idiot’. It gives you a little peek into the atmosphere in the car, this was all before we had to stop for a bathroom break for junior team members.
As soon as we arrived the mood of all the travelers changed entirely. We were greeted by the sight of a magnificent house and grounds, filling with picnickers, many other families also far from home. There was kicking the footy (Aussie rules of course), tossing baseballs (in deference to our host nation), catching butterflies in the long grass and fishing in the dam. The many accents, Aussie, Kiwi, American and various others washed quietly over us as did the wafting smell of bangers on the barbecue.
The ceremony was conducted by the NZ Honorary Consul Ian Latham and the ANZAC address was given by Flight Lieutenant Andrew Stockwell of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Last Post, Revielle and both national anthems were brilliantly completed by a very accomplished trumpeter, Hollie Lifshey. It was a short but moving service where Ian spoke of his personal memories of WWI vets from his childhood and Flight Lieutenant Stockwell spoke about what ANZAC day means to him as a current member of the Australian Armed Services. He talked about never having been actively deployed in wistful tones. I chatted with him afterwards as he played on the grass with his two year old son and he told me that he has been scheduled for deployment to the Middle East three times and three times it was cancelled, the last time within 24 hours of departure. He wishes he had been at least once.
It wasn’t a dawn service, but it was important to me as I stood there with my family and others on the lawn on a beautiful peaceful Spring day, that we were remembering our ANZACs and others that have served, as well as exposing and educating our children to the tradition and meaning of the day. Our kids as TCK’s take for granted the many different cultural experiences they are exposed to which will be with them always, but sometimes I forget about my own upbringing and all the Australian-ness we take for granted and as assumed knowledge. That information that just ‘is’, that seeps into your consciousness over years of living in a country.
The day progressed, there were pavlovas and ANZAC biscuits on the dessert table. The afternoon moved onto cricket, did I mention the grounds included a fully mowed paddock and rolled cricket pitch for the occasion? The ANZAC spirit was alive and well as the Aussies with greater numbers assisted the NZ team with fielding, the eventual result of a Aussie victory probably had something to do with this.
We left as the late afternoon shadows were forming after a wonderful event, happy, content and having shared part of our cultural heritage with others from our homelands, new family members and importantly our children.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.