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Saturday, April 25, 2009

We will remember them.

Today in New Zealand it is ANZAC Day, a national holiday. It is a day of remembrance for all those who have fought for the country, those who serve to protect it now and most especially those who went to fight for New Zealand and never returned.

Although I have been here for two previous ANZAC Days, today was the first day I went to a dawn service. These happen all across the country, rain or shine. I turned up a little late (6:00 AM, the ceremony had begun at 5:45) but as the parade had gathered outside the Upper Hutt City Council building it was easy to filter into the crowd assembled on the street.

As it was still pre-dawn, the skies were dark but the street was well-lit and I could see that at least hundreds of people were present, if not a thousand or more. There were some lovely speeches from a local priest, the president of the RSA (Returned and Services' Association) and the chief of staff of Joint Forces New Zealand.

There was then a laying of wreaths accompanied by a somber number played on the bagpipes, followed by one minute's silence. Then came Reveille, which is listed in the program as "The sounding of Reveille proclaims our belief that the landing at ANZAC heralded the dawn of a brilliant era in the march to Nationhood of Australia and New Zealand."

This references the Gallipoli campaign during World War I when the ANZAC company was directed to the wrong part of the shore to stage an assault that was designed to force the Turks to surrender. It was an ill-fated campaign and I refer you again to this page for a far better synopsis of its significance than I can provide.

The parade then closed with a singing of the New Zealand national anthem and by now the sun had started to rise and cast its light over the cold Hutt Valley. Having never been to a dawn service before, I wasn't sure what to wear so I figured it'd be better to be over-dressed rather than under-dressed. My coat and tie proved to be a bit too formal as most people were dressed nicely but not to such a degree, so next year I will be a bit more relaxed in that department.

In a way, I did come under-dressed after all, as the poppy I had received for making a donation to the RSA yesterday was still pinned to my smock at work. Most everyone around me had their poppies on display, but that being said I wasn't made to feel embarassed in the slightest. The New Zealanders present were, as ever, polite, introspective and friendly. I'm sure none of them noticed I wasn't wearing a poppy anyways - it just wouldn't bother them!

I know I wasn't the only American in New Zealand turning out for ANZAC Day, either, as there were some U. S. Marines from the embassy's guard detachment handing out poppies at the railway station downtown. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a statement of commemoration for ANZAC Day from Washington, DC.

I'd love to get to the dawn service next year at the War Memorial in downtown Wellington, which I have visited in the past, but not on ANZAC Day.

The last Monday in May is, of course, Memorial Day back in the States. It looks like, from past news items on its site, that there will be a service for this at the U. S. Embassy or somewhere nearby in Wellington. I'll be sure to get to this if I can this year, too, work schedule permitting.

As for the rest of my day, I'll be repairing to Westpac Stadium later this evening with a friend to cheer on the Wellington Hurricanes in their match against the Brumbies from Canberra, Australia. I look forward to it, as always, but it will be a little more special today given the intertwined history of these two great countries that has been illustrated today.


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Damn! That was the first time in 3 years that I didn't make an ANZAC Day post. I just forgot. [:-(

12:09 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

That's OK, Nick, you always do such a great job with your posts, you're allowed to take a year off from time to time! Look forward to next year's ANZAC post out of you and hope things are going well up there on the top half of the globe =)

10:10 AM  

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