|The scene at the New Norfolk Dawn Service this morning.|
Given by the Reverend Celia Hooker of St Matthew's Anglican Church
THIS is a day in the Australian and New Zealand calendar like no other. The friendship, honour and respect that is shared between men and women as they reflect on the servicemen and women who have served their country, is that of pride.
Today, like so many others in cities and country towns, we stand in the half-light to remember those people who gave their lives for our freedom. World War I - known as the Great War - even though it was not the first conflict that Australians were involved with, was a defining period in Australian history.
It took place only 13 years after the formation of the Australian Federation. It was one of the first major international conflicts in which our young nation was involved. I read that 416,809 people enlisted to fight for Australia... of these people more than 60,000 were killed and 152,000 were injured, and of course one of the most significant events during this war was the Anzac landing at Gallipoli in Turkey.
Although Gallipoli represents different things to different people, the story of the Anzacs is one of perseverance and courage in the face of failure and despair. Our strong, young brave men were cut down, many in the prime of their life.
After only four months of training in Egypt, the Anzac troops left for Gallipoli. At dawn on the 25th of April, 1915, they landed on the beach now known as Anzac Cove, and we know the entire conflict was just a nightmare. They began to evacuate on the 20th of December, 1915, after months of bloodshed and misery.
By that time there were 8700 deaths and they will forever be remembered for their bravery and endurance. Those young men are what turned this horrific event into a legend which shaped our country. Not a victory, just courage.
We read and hear often of brave people like John Simpson who transported injured men from the battle line at Monash Valley to safety at Anzac Cove on the back of his donkey. The donkey had originally been brought to Gallipoli to carry water, but with Simpson it was given a far greater cause. Simpson and his donkey rescued about 300 wounded soldiers.
I feel that our people in so many conflicts over the years had many Simpsons and I believe that it was not just the Anzacs that possessed that spirit, mateship, courage, endurance and bravery. Every year we hear of events that happened in other wars. We also hear of the incredible men and women who gave so much for their country.
Many of us had parents, relatives, classmates and friends, ordinary people who became heroes in our eyes. These people gave their time, wellbeing and often their live for their country. I suspect that on their arrival back in Australia, and as they returned to the life they had left behind, it must have seemed a bit foreign to them, and I suspect that they felt anything but heroic.
The cost of war and peacekeeping is overwhelming. Today is indeed a day to honour all those people who served and to thank them for their willingness and bravery. Today it is not just about history, because there are still men and women currently serving overseas in wars and peacekeeping operations. We are grateful for their service.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the people who have lost loved ones in Sri Lanka, and to those who have been injured in body and soul. Maybe the thought of peace is just utopia, in all ages. Jesus came into this world to give us peace, but people didn't receive Him. We have just celebrated Easter and many of us acknowledged that our Lord and Saviour was prepared to be tortured and to suffer a hideous death for us to know that there is life everlasting through His surpreme sacrifice.
Still, He asked God to forgive those who did this to Him, because they didn't know what they were doing. People didn't accept Him, some still don't, and yet it is through Him that we can find hope, and personally I would find it difficult not to have that hope and not to have Jesus in my life.
I am so proud to be an Australian and so proud to be a Christian, and I am proud today to stand beside people who care for their country. To those of you who gave your young years and your innocence and some of your larrikinism for others... thank you.
Mrs Hooker also spoke at an Anzac service at Corumbene Nursing Home this morning and will lead the prayers at the 11am service at the New Norfolk Cenotaph in Circle St.