SETTING aside the build-up ahead of the centenary commemoration of Anzac Day, perhaps the main focus for all of us today should be to take some time for reflection.
Reflection on how a fledgling nation sent its young men and women off to war and how we are forever changed as a result.
Many of us have known only modern conflicts in our lifetimes; war that comes to us via our television screens and, more recently, social media.
Yet time and again we return to the stories of our forefathers to try to understand the meaning of war; the thousands of Australians who stormed the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula, many cut down in their prime, others injured and fortunate to return home if they weren’t taken in a later conflict.
We remember those who fought for long months across Europe on the Western Front; the loss of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides of a conflict that often moved only a few feet between trench lines.
We are proud of those fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who answered the call of nation and empire to defend our liberty.
We are equally proud of those women who also went to war to nurse the injured and dying in horrendous conditions but with the same sense of service as our soldiers.
And we are also proud of those who remained at home, who farewelled their loved ones with tears and prayed for their safe return.
They waited for their letters and postcards, sent letters of their own and packages with hand-knitted socks or gloves and other small luxuries that might give some comfort and ease the nightmare at the front.
For those who received the worst news, and sometimes a considerable time after their son, brother, father or sweetheart had died, we remember those who mourned and found a way to get on with their lives, even though they never forgot their loss.
Today is likely to see some of the biggest crowds commemorate Anzac Day at hundreds of dawn services, marches and other ceremonies across Australia and around the world.
And this is how it should be. We should never forget any sacrifice made during war, whether it is 1915 or 2015.
We must ensure young generations continue to acknowledge those sacrifices and understand the need to work towards peace in a world where our differences are many.
Lest we forget those who have ensured the freedoms we savour today.
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