Anzac not just a day off work

Last updated 14:00 24/04/2013

REFLECTING ON ANZAC DAY: An Australian soldier's shadow is cast onto a war memorial.

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My Anzac Day will be spent in Australia.

My father entered WWII at age 19, he served in the Middle East and Italy and remembered the war as wastage of life and property of catastrophic scale. His stories were usually humorous, and never recounted the horrors he had seen. A gunner in a Sherman tank, he formed a bond with his crewmates that was never broken. I was possibly eight or nine years old before I realised several of my uncles were, in fact, no relation.

We would travel as a family, sometimes several times a month, so he could reunite with them. They seemed to gain comfort in the presence of another who had shared the experience, and we were never party to what was discussed.

War shaped him, as it shaped most New Zealand soldiers. There was no glory in death, you simply did what was required, then moved on to the next task. No fuss, no fanfare, just a stoicism that became a nation's identity.

He taught us the value of taking pride of a job well done, and that personal pride in achievement was all the acknowledgement required.

How things have changed, he was not a conservative, despised Muldoon, and yet also had no time for either socialists or their unions. He was a New Zealander who embraced the land and individualism like so many of his era.

Anzac Day was of utmost importance to my father, it was the only time he ever drank a whiskey with his mates, and the whole day, starting with the last post, was filled with remembrance.

He has gone now, some 24 years have passed. I am glad he is not here to see what Anzac Day has become here.

A day off work is the sum of most Kiwi's feelings about what should be a tribute to that massive sacrifice so long ago. Brief public placations by obliged officials to a smaller and smaller audience.

How refreshing it is to be in Australia instead, they celebrate without restraint, the marches last all morning and most people spend the afternoon with friends and family.

So I will be taking my father's service medals and wearing them with pride in a country that still gives a damn.

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