The Young Men Shall Not Grow Old
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.
World War I. ‘Twas the war to end all wars. Countless young men, teenagers most of them, were sent to the front, into the very fires of hell it seemed, to be slaughtered. And so many young women were sent to far-off, distant and unfamiliar lands, to care for and support our fighting men.
In WWI, over 60,000 Australians and almost 17,000 New Zealanders were killed. That of course, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Countless more were injured and maimed. And the psychological after-effects of war hit not only the families of that generation, but lingered on to impact their children, and their children’s children.
At the heart of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At the National War Memorial in Wellington, New Zealand lies the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior (He Toa Matangaro No Aotearoa).
As a former serving Army Officer – albeit one who blessedly never saw active service – I have stood many a time beside the Tomb of the Unknown Solder in Canberra. Words cannot describe the feeling as the hairs on the back of your neck rise up, and your eyes become misty, at the sheer privilege of standing beside this man’s remains. I return there as often as I can, to stand beside this young lad, who gave his life for my freedom.
No greater love has any man than to lay down his life for his friends.
Since the War to End All Wars, many more Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women have put their lives on the line for you and me. Some have lost their lives. Others have come back irreparably damaged. My thoughts turn to the many returned sailors, soldiers and airmen who, together with their families, are suffering the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – lives and families continue to be torn apart by the ravages of war.
On this day, ANZAC day, my thoughts go out to the countless men and women who have been prepared to walk into the dangers and the ravages of war on my behalf. To preserve my freedom. To keep me safe from tyranny.
The sacrifices that they have made and are continuing to make, and for many of them the blood that they spilled, is something that I treasure above anything that words can express.
It is time, on this most solemn of days, ANZAC day, for each man, woman and child in the tiny nations of Australia and New Zealand, to pause and remember.
Lest we forget.
Related Post: ANZAC Day 2012