I’ve been reading ANZAC day speeches lately. Years of them. Speeches by politicians and military commanders; by medical officers and chaplains.
Speeches remembering and commemorating the sobering sacrifices of the young men and women who have fought in the armed forces on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, from the present day all the way back to the shores of Gallipoli in 1915.
As we mark today the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, the birth of the ANZAC tradition, the words of then New Zealand High Commissioner Kate Lackey from 2005 sum up its significance so well –
Gallipoli was the battle which broke our hearts. It was also the battle which caused us to think about who we were. Before Gallipoli we were colonials. At Gallipoli, we measured ourselves alongside – and against – the best, and found no cause for shame.
Because of Gallipoli so it is said, Australia and New Zealand became nations. The 25th of April 1915 will forever be a part of what it means to be a New Zealander or an Australian. For each of us, ANZAC is part of our national identity.
And what is that national identity?
As I read through speech after speech, three core qualities of the spirit of the ANZACs were noted, again and again. Others were mentioned, of course. Different speakers spoke to different themes. But these three – these three were the golden thread.
They were courage, mateship, and self-sacrifice.
So what does this mean for we who remain? We who are the recipients of the powerful legacy of these traits?
It is indelibly recorded in our history and identity. We have a sacred trust to remain accountable to its legacy…
Yet we also keep faith with ANZAC through the everyday.
In our own finding and testing of courage.
In our building of lives, homes and communities.
In our willingness to persevere through misfortune and adversity; to remain hopeful in the dry gullies.
In our capacity to reach out and deep when floodwaters rise and bushfires ravage.
In our remembrance of each other.
– Her Excellency Ms. Quentin Brice, Governor-General of Australia (2009)
We keep faith with the ANZAC legacy by the way we live out its virtues and ideals.
By choosing courage…
courage to confront injustice
courage to choose truth over complacency
courage to take risks for the sake of a greater cause
By choosing mateship…
mateship that embraces difference
mateship that extends beyond the comfortable
mateship that puts people before possessions, power or ideologies
By choosing self-sacrifice…
self-sacrifice in our relationships
self-sacrifice in our time and resources
self-sacrifice in our pursuit of vocation over simply success
These qualities, these ANZAC virtues – they do not just happen. If a group of men face the most harrowing test of the spirit and these are the qualities that rise to surface, you can be sure they were a part of the fabric of their lives long before. They would have forged these qualities in the small battles close to home before they were ever called to live them out on in a war on the other side of the world.
It is in choosing to forge those same qualities in the ordinariness of our own lives, that we can remember their sacrifice not just on this centenary anniversary, but every day to come in which we are blessed by the freedom for which they fought.