Posted in Family life, Other stuff

Anzac Day in a sleepy Aussie town

I’m feeling very homesick as I watch the dawn service for Anzac Day on Channel 7. It’s at Currumbin’s Elephant Rock which is my home and to see so many people attending that special service makes my heart ache. Tears are near as I listen to the bagpipes and watch the sun slowly creep through the clouds behind the rock as thousands mill around on the sand, along the pavement and up the hills to pay their respects.

I’m not there this year because I’m still working remotely and happen to be in mid-west Queensland. The town of Dingo is nearly smaller than the roadhouse that sits on the Capricorn Hwy on the other side of the coal-train railway line. Four of us leave camp and drive to the Dingo dawn service, nearly collecting a kangaroo as we head out on the dirt road of only about 200m to the highway. It’s a quick drive, less than a K and we are in Dingo. As we park we notice no more than thirty people in front of the stone memorial across from the heritage Library.

There are two spotlights over the memorial and a wobbly table in front with amplifies and a mic. On a bench sits an elderly woman and two boys around 12 year’s old. One has bare feet and he swings them under the bench as he waits for his turn to speak. He won’t have to wait long. The MC thanks everyone for attending and talks about Anzac spirit. The lady then reads a prayer that we barely hear because the microphone has stopped working. Then the two boys from the local school read a poem. Again we can’t hear it because the microphone isn’t working but maybe we wouldn’t want to as one of the boys can barely read. Gotta give him credit for giving it a go and when they are finished an elderly man pats him on the back and says, “Good job.” Obviously this was some achievement for this young bloke and he did his town proud by attempting to speak on Anzac Day.

There are only two service men in berets. One speaks and they both lay wreaths. Then the bugle sounds via a recording and my heart constricts the way it always does when I hear the haunting sound on Anzac Day. Finally as the National Anthem plays (no not sung by a locacl school child as you’d expect but again a recording) the flag that sat at half mast is raised. The MC announces the end of the ceremony and thanks us for our attendance. The sun hasn’t even risen so it isn’t even dawn (new meaning to ‘dawn service’).

We look around baffled. A ten minute service – who woulda thought.

So, we return to camp and I’m happy to watch the Currumbin service and think of all the people I know who’ll be there, particularly my sons. I look for them in the crowd but of course there are too many people and I can’t see them. I’m awash with memories of previous cold mornings standing in wet sand watching solemn faces and enjoying the feeling of ‘one’ amongst those who have come to show their respects. I miss the smell of the ocean but am glad I attended the country Dingo service and know that no matter where we are on Anzac Day we can pay our respects to the fallen and those who are serving our country today.

This year is special too because last year Kris (step-son) was still in Afghanistan serving with the Australian Army. Last year Bevil (husband) and I cried buckets in Currumbin and could barely see the slideshow screen because of the tears. We didn’t rest until Kris came home. He’s home this year with his lovely wife Elise. He’s probably marching in Brisbane later today. So though I can’t raise a glass and have a drink to you, Kris, I did pay my resects and the most repected Anzac to me is you.

Lest we forget.

Dingo, Australia at dawn Anzac Day Wednesday 25th April 2012.
Posted in Family life, Other stuff

Crying at Anzac Dawn Service Currumbin

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.

Currumbin Beach Anzac Day 2011. Notice the two airforce planes top right.

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.

Diggers are buried at sea thanks to the help of Currumbin Vikings boat crews.

Lest we forget.