For as long as I can remember, ANZAC Day has held a special significance for me.
Growing up, I can recall going into the city with my family, small cloth Australian flag at the ready, clapping and waving at all the current and former service men and women who marched by me.
It was the thrill of a lifetime when, in 1999 and 2000, I marched in the Hobart parade as a member of my Scout troop, my great grandfather’s medals gleaming on my chest; such rhapsodic pride has eluded me ever since.
With age, the enthusiasm dwindled somewhat.
When one becomes a teenager the last thing one wants to do is get out of bed early and stand awkwardly in the cold, trying to feign excitement at a group of soldiers, even if some of those former soldiers include one’s grandfather.
This attitude was quashed by a seemingly insignificant event at the 2005 march where I stood clapping at a group of veterans as they marched by. A standard practice for me as it had been since I was old enough to stand and clap.
One veteran – a little old man in aviator sunglasses, an awkwardly askew cap, and with a lovely moustache – looked at me as he walked by, smiled, and gave me the thumbs up.
He probably performed a similar gesture to every young man who caught his eye, but for some reason (and I shall never know why) it moved me tremendously to the point where I actually began to weep.
So, since 2006 I have been an enthusiastic spectator at the Hobart ANZAC Day parade, and since 2012 my father and I have attended the Dawn Service at the Hobart Cenotaph.
ANZAC Day is important to me for several reasons.
Firstly, it is important to commemorate the sacrifices made by our service men and women in this nation’s 228-year history.
The reasons for wars aside, what we often forget is that those people who have served and continue to serve this country in a military capacity did and do so voluntarily.
These brave souls willingly sign up to throw themselves into perilous environments because they love this country and wish to preserve and protect the freedoms we enjoy.
Secondly, and most importantly, though ANZAC Day is often charged with “promoting jingoism and glorifying war” it is in fact a day where we remember the true horrors of war.
The very date chosen to commemorate Australian and New Zealand’s military histories is a day where ANZAC soldiers were massacred on a far-flung beach on the other side of the world.
ANZAC Day doesn’t exclusively commemorate the Gallipoli campaign, rather it commemorates the values of doing your duty, being true to yourself, and keeping an eye out for your mate; values which were baptised in the blood of Australian and New Zealander soldiers on that horrific day 101 years ago.
These three values have become core to Australians and New Zealanders ever since.
So when I go to the march today, I’m not waving my flag because I think Australia is the greatest country in the world, nor when the veterans and current service men and women march by will I be clapping in a sort of frenzied bloodlust, hoping that they’ve mown down a few enemies with their guns, or will do so shortly.
I’ll be clapping, and likely shedding a few tears, because when I see those men and women go marching by, I know that the reason I can enjoy my today is because some gave their yesterdays, and will give their tomorrows.
Lest we forget.