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April 25 is a significant day on the Australian calendar.  While we celebrate January 26 as Australia Day, April 25 (known as Anzac Day) is in many ways a reflection of when we came of age as a nation. 

For those who don’t know, Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and on April 25, 1915, the Anzacs landed at the hostile beach of Gallipoli for an eight month campaign that ultimately proved fruitless.  Despite the loss, the characteristics displayed by our troops have become part of our folklore.

What can we learn from our Anzacs?

Mateship:  The Anzac spirit is very much based on the value of mateship.  Helping friends in their time of need and maintaining morale were traits that were regularly exhibited during wartime by Australian and New Zealander troops. 

The following quote comes from Private Percival  and was written on August 7, 1915 from Gallipoli and is an excellent example of what real mates will do for each other:

One man was caught through the side of the head, severing his right ear but not killing him.  He lay… in a dangerous position – right in line of a point from which some snipers were potting our lads… A man crawled out of our shallow trench and wormed his way along the ground to a position within a couple of yards from this man.  Ping! Zipp! Zipp! Bullets hit the ground… but the rescuer worked his way snake-wise until he got to the wounded man.  Clumsily turning the man over he shouted, “How’s she going, mate?”. There was no answer. He yelled, “Strike me pink the poor bugger’s just about outed”, and began to drag him… he got a bullet through his ankle but managed it at last and we cheered him. He looked over and grinned.

Retain Your Sense of Humour:  The Anzac troops have always been renowned for retaining their ability to laugh even when under extreme pressure.  Practical jokes were a regular event, normally at the expense of their British Allies who didn’t appreciate the perceived lack of discipline.

This is a great lesson for us.  It would be very rare that in today’s world we would experience anything like the pressure that our troops did, however there are times when we do feel stressed and everyone around you is under pressure as well.  Keep on smiling and look for opportunities to lighten the mood when the people around you are getting too serious. 

Courage under Fire:  The story of Simpson and his Donkey is one of the great legends of Gallipoli.  Simpson was a stretcher bearer who was able to obtain a donkey to assist him in rescuing wounded soldiers from the battlefield.  He would make dashes into no mans land and saved up to 300 soldiers over a period of a few weeks before being shot himself.  Simpson’s reckless and selfless courage has made him one of the most revered figures in Anzac history.

Whilst we are unlikely to face the same conditions, there are occasions when we may need to make decisions that will require courage.  To defend the disadvantaged, stand up for an important principle or do the right thing when everyone around you disagrees takes a different type of courage, but it’s still  important. 

On Anzac Day Australians traditionally repeat the ode:

They shall not grow 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.

We are grateful for the sacrifice made by those Anzacs who have died or been injured in battle.

Our thoughts are also with the men and women currently serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Egypt, Sudan and elsewhere in the Middle East.  May God bless you, we thank you for your service, we are proud of you and please come home safely.

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