Anzac Day makes me think of the birth of our national identity

Anzac Day, April 25, the day that the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the beaches of Gallipoli, a quickly organised attempt at a takeover of the Turkish Peninsula to capture Constantinople and secure a sea route to Russia.

This campaign made casualties of 7473 New Zealanders and 28,150 Australians.

Anzac Day makes me think about the birth of our national identity; no longer were we just a colony, we were a country, a nation with its own beliefs and values that were important, significant and specific to us as New Zealanders, as Kiwis.

Anzac Day for me is not only a day full of national pride and history, it is a day of remembrance, not only of my relatives who fought or fell in combat, but also of the bravery, the loyalty and the lessons learned across all wars and battles.

I am 17 years old.

In 1914 and 1915, at my age, or even younger, many boys went off to war, joining other men from all over New Zealand seeking adventure.

It is not too difficult for me to imagine the amount of courage necessary for those young men to leave their families, friends and sweethearts to travel halfway around the globe to fight and, if necessary, to die for our freedom.

These men weren't already members of the armed forces either; they weren't trained in the art of killing They were bankers, grocers, farmhands, doctors, teachers.

They were ordinary men who had the love for their country necessary for them to take up arms to secure its freedom.

They had no idea what they were in for; they didn't know the shocking conditions they'd have to live in, the meagre food they'd have to eat, the overwhelming training and capabilities of the enemy, or perhaps even the most deadly opponent, the diseases they'd be exposed to.

The fact that the patriotism of our soldiers was so strong that even the most terrified soldier was braver than any other, fighting to keep our pristine nation free and not for medals or decorations, is something to commemorate.

It is something that should make every New Zealander's heart fill with pride.

As Laurence Binyon said in his Ode to Remembrance: With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit, fallen in the cause of the free.

Anzac Day for me is also a reminder of our nation's loyalty to our Allies.

The king's declaration of war on Germany and the Ottoman Empire spoke not only for England, but for all the British Empire's dominions on August 4, 1914.

We didn't even shudder at the thought, we didn't um and ah, we had respect for where we had come from and who had given us the clay that we as a country moulded into our national identity.

An interesting point that I discovered was that in 1939 little old New Zealand at the bottom of the world declared war on Germany itself after Britain declared war, unlike Australia which went along with England and assumed Britain's declaration as one that included them as one of the empire's dominions once again.

A great example of how quickly our identity evolved, we were able to speak for ourselves, we were our own people.

Anzac Day is also a time to reflect, reflect on the lessons we can all take away from both the First and Second World Wars.

There are so many, but in the long run it all comes down to what is right and wrong.

Was it right that each man's psyche was determined by the stereotypical view of the colour of his uniform?Was it right that one colour was seen as good and one was seen as bad? Was it right that each and every man and woman who saw action was permanently affected?

As we look forward to the Centenary of Anzac Day in 2015, these questions will no doubt return to the forefront of people's minds as they congregate once more on the shores of Gallipoli or at dawn services throughout Australia and New Zealand.

I was selling poppies on the Friday before Anzac Day with the Palmerston RSA and I heard something two men were talking about.

They said, ''The brave that fought we will never . . . nor should we ever have to, experience what those men went through.''

It is true. War is horrifying, terrifying and ferocious and what I think is the most sadly ironic thing is that at the end of it, we are all the same, regardless of borders, beliefs and or race - we are all human.

Here are some of the thoughts that are written on the Anzac Cove war memorial in Turkey: Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives . . . You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.


• By Michael Lister, Year 13, East Otago High School



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