It was dark when my husband Bevil and I got up this morning. Our teenage boys were nowhere in sight so we headed off to the dawn service without them, hoping they would end up at Currumbin Beach at some stage.
Anzac Day is special for us as it is for most Australians. Not only have we had Anzac ancestors (Grandad Jack and Uncle Arthur on my side) we also have Kris, Bevil’s son from his first marriage, my much-loved step-son. Kris is in the Army based at Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane. He is currently on leave because of recent intense training in Townsville to be ready for deployment to Afghanistan in a couple of months.
Kris married Elise last year and our hearts were heavy for both of them as we walked to Currumbin’s Elephant Rock thinking about what Anzac Day really means. We arrived early before 4am and there were maybe a few hundred people of all ages there (soon to swell to thousands). Families with young children, couples, teenagers, the elderly. Some wore badges, theirs or their departed ancestors. Some clutched Australian flags, others candles, some held hands to garner support. There were tears in eyes, particularly mine.
I’m emotional most Anzac Days. Last year Uncle Arthur (Dad’s brother) had recently passed away but at least Kris was safe on home soil. This year Kris leaves soon and when a slide show featuring the young men who have died this year and haunting music began, I tried to hold back the tears but they came anyway. I cried for the wives and the children who would barely know their dad, the mothers and the fathers who had lost their son, the siblings and family and friends.
Mostly I cried for what might be and the fact that I am worried about Kris’s safety. I’m worried about how his new wife will cope. I’m worried how Bevil will cope. It’s not easy to send your son to war. You believe they will come home but sometimes they don’t. I try not to worry because it’s pointless but try as I might my emotions still bubble over. We are proud of the man Kris is and honour his commitment to his job commanding a LAV (land-all-terrain vehicle).
I’m still feeling emotionally drained even now. At the service I really felt like howling out loud but on Anzac Day everything is done with quiet dignity, even the crying. I wiped at my tears and watched the screen and the proceedings and the people. Those who laid wreaths didn’t shed tears so I really had to keep it together. I was proud of how many people were there, proud to be Australian, proud to be friends with New Zealanders, proud, proud, proud.
At the same time I was sad for the young lives lost over all these generations. When the John Lennon song ‘Imagine’ was played I couldn’t help thinking how nice his dream was. Yes, he was a dreamer but he’s not the only one.
If we had peace and no religion too young men like Kris would not have to fight for our freedom – we would indeed all be free.
Lest we forget.