Thursday, April 25, 2013

ANZAC DAY Without War : Last Year's Tribute

Sorry!  We, uh, had a birthday party to go to this year.  Still love watching the kids march.  Still love being the good guys.  And still pray, pray, pray that one day we can put soldiers to use for purposes other than war. 

ANZAC Day Without War
Proud new patriots at last year's ANZAC parade

I held back tears at least year's ANZAC parade. Mostly because I had been here only half a year and I was embarrassed to be so worked up about a country that hadn't even granted me permanent residency yet. (I spent that first year unable to make it through the national anthem at Friday's weekly school parade without tears too. Might have been the pregnancy hormones. But mostly I think it was the intense relief and gratitude I felt the moment our plane touched down in Brisbane.)

Sometimes the most loyal patriot is a new patriot.

In any case, people were scared to sit next to me at assembly last year.

This year, it always stuns me when people ask where I am from. "Uh, Strathpine, north of Brisbane." Until they then ask where the ACCENT is from and I remember that I had a life before Australia.

TWINE! Tomato, potato and water as well. (Although when I recently pronounced potato correctly - in the middle of my American accent - it brought just as many laughs. Apparently I sounded English, not Australian. You people are very hard to please sometimes. KARTOFFEL! So there.)
Lawnton State School students at this year's ANZAC Day Parade

I love having my kids march proudly on ANZAC day.

Veterans Day in the USA always held associations with Vietnam and probably now with Iraq and with whether we should have been there or not. There was a lot of ambiguity over whether we should be proud or not. And there were definite sides - the far right which felt we HAD to be proud or else we were traitors to the American flag - and the far left which felt that the soldiers sent to Vietnam were criminals. It's mellowed some with Iraq; even those against the war itself had learned enough from the divisiveness of the Vietnam era to respect the soldiers being sent over to fight while at the same time protesting the fact that they were being sent over there.

You see what I mean? Blah blah. The Americans can't march without sides being drawn.

Matthew and Andrew at the War Memorial in Kallangur last year

The Germans don't march at all. (Which makes the rest of Europe breathe a sigh of relief any day! Ha ha. Sorry I couldn't resist that one.)

There is a Day of Remembrance for victims of WWII but it is a quiet day off, not a celebration.

It came to me today that if Germany could acknowledge their collective guilt and move forward, they would be my heroes for owning up to what happens when everyday people make very bad choices.

(An Aussie friend of mine went to Germany on holiday recently and toured a concentation camp while she was there. After seeing the piles of human hair and the shoes and the other horrors that the German guide had no problems showing them she asked if the Germans had apologised for what they had done. Ah, the innocence of Australians always surprises and pleases me! "It was war." she was told. "You don't apologize for war." Ah, maybe you might want to consider it, mate.

Matthew watching from the sidelines at this year's parade with a 102.5F (39.4C) fever

It would be in very bad form to honour a military that, according to Valkyrie (the movie with Tom Cruise) anyway, had more than one chance to do the right thing - get rid of Hitler - and continually chose not to.

Of course that doesn't stop me from mourning the 12 year old boys they sent into battle at the end.

But he rallies bravely!

Being a pacifist does not stop me from being grateful to soldiers who had to fight to protect the freedoms that we have today.

As the spitfire flies overhead at the end of the parade I think back on our trip to Dresden and how horrendous it must have been to hear that sound in Europe and know that bombs were on their way.

I remind my kids as we walk to the march that war is an evil that kills indiscriminately.

I talk to them about the other purposes a military could be used for: building roads and schools and hospitals, immunizing children, providing clean water and teaching about proper sanitation. Helping people help themselves.

As the spitfire flies overhead I think of the young soldiers today - Australian, American and other, who come home from Afghanistan today and drop to the floor trembling if someone drops a bag of groceries in the supermarket.

Or of Damon's uncle who still suffers from night terrors since he returned from Vietnam 4o years ago.

ANZAC Day is a day to be proud of our country - sorry Cara, countries! - and of our soldiers.

Honouring soldiers of past wars

And future soldiers I hope never have to go to war

It is a relief and a joy to be in a country always seen as the good blokes, the mates, the ones who come to aid, but not the ones who start anything. Free of moral ambiguity and political implications.
(Compared to the Americans and Germans anyway!)

But for me any commemoration of our soldiers will also be a day to remember the horrors that war brings.
Who ARE these people. Ryan a year ago, sitting on a pregnant Mommy to hide her belly!

And to hope that someday soon, when I am at the parade watching my grandkids march perhaps, we will be honouring soldiers who haven't had to fight a war at all.

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