I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..
I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.
I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.
It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.
There is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.
Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.
I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.
I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:
“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”
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(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)