Why I’m getting up early this Anzac Day (and why you should too)

Talking to many of my friends recently, I have been shocked to realise that this isn’t always the case. For a lot of people, Anzac Day is nothing more than a day off work.

This Thursday, across the state, South Australians will gather at Anzac Day services to pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of those who have defended and protected Australia throughout our country’s military history.

Or, we’d like to think they will. 

Talking to many of my friends recently, I have been shocked to realise that this isn’t always the case. For a lot of people, Anzac Day is nothing more than a day off work. A day to catch up on the washing, the emails or the cooking.

I didn’t use to ‘get it’. The sheer importance of what the day stood for. I remember my parents taking me to my then-local service in Blackwood. The gathering of people so early in the morning was novel, and I have more memories of the breakfast we’d get afterwards than I do the actual service. 

But then I did get it. 

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to win a trip to Gallipoli to commemorate the centenary of the ANZAC’s. I was in Year 10, and the trip was the result of an essay I had entered into the Premier’s Spirit of the Anzac competition. I travelled with 22 other South Australian students and had no idea what to expect.

We stayed up all night, as shuttle busses took the thousands of Australians from the campsite to the cove. You could feel the importance of the moment. 

As we stood there, at 5am in Anzac Cove, in the bronze light of dawn, a voice reverberated in the crisp air.

“It was exactly 100 years ago today when the first ANZAC’s disembarked their boats, and began to climb this very cove.”

I still get goosebumps thinking about it. It was a moment that will stay with me forever. The sense of immense sadness. I was 16 years old at the time. The same age as many of the fallen soldiers I was commemorating.

But it wasn’t just sadness. It was national pride. International pride. Here we were – Australians and Turks – standing in solidarity. Commemorating the sacrifice these brave soldiers made in a war they had no say in. 

Because what they did is so big that it’s hard to grasp. They gave up their existence when they were told their country needed them. They gave up their existence to fight for us.

During the trip, we toured the thousands of gravestones that lay in the cemeteries along the Turkish coast. Each gravestone contains a short inscription written by a family member or loved one.

There is one that jumped out at me. It is on the gravestone of Henry Collett, a 21 year old from Maryborough in Victoria. It reads ‘could I just clasp your hand, one more, just to say well done.’ 

You see, Anzac Day isn’t a day to honour war. War isn’t something to be honoured. It’s about honouring the people. Their selflessness and their sacrifice.

As we look around the world right now, and see the fighting, and the bloodshed, I believe it’s something that everyone should honour.

So. That’s why I’ll be getting up early tomorrow. And that’s why you should, too. 

Because we live in a free country. And the reason we live in a free country is because there were people – just like you and I – who died for it. And there are people who continue to die for it. The current and ex service men and women who continue to dedicate their lives to keep our country, and our freedoms, safe. 

And we should never take that for granted. 

The 2024 Anzac Day events will be conducted by the RSL State Branch, beginning with the Dawn Service from 6.00 am at the National War Memorial on North Terrace, followed by the Anzac Day March commencing 930 am and concluding with the Cross of Sacrifice Service Remembrance Service at the Cross of Sacrifice at 11.30 am.

Dawn services will also be held at RSL Sub-branches and memorials across the state. 

To find your local service, click here

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