Think Piece – Who Did You Remember on Anzac Day?

Source:  Lieutenant Colonel David McCammon DSM, Commanding Officer, 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.

On Anzac Day we remember the sacrifices of the more than 16,000 New Zealanders and Australians who surged ashore at the foot of rugged hills on a peninsula in Turkey, to open a new campaign in a war that had already reached a stalemate. Unfortunately it would not be our last campaign of the First World War. By the time the War finished Australia had over 60,000 dead and more than 150,000 wounded. On Anzac Day, we also commemorate those lost in other wars such as the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam and, most recently, Afghanistan.

For me, I remember members of the 7th Battalion in particular; a battalion that has served in both the First and Second World Wars, and then in its current form as the 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, where its members served in Vietnam, Iraq, Timor and Afghanistan. I was serving with the 7th Battalion on operations when we lost Corporal Matt Hopkins; our last soldier killed in action on the 16th of March, 2009 in Kakarak, Afghanistan. Corporal Hopkins was an outstanding junior leader who always led from the front and I feel fortunate to have served with him.

As time has passed the actual military battle of Gallipoli and others where Australian’s have served becomes less and less relevant. What becomes more important is what Anzac Day stands for. The Anzacs set standards that have inspired their countrymen for generations. Their mateship, dry wit and dark humour in adversity and democratic temper have become hallmarks of our national identity.

It is for this reason that we don’t just spend Anzac Day in solemn remembrance. Rather we use the opportunity to consider why this country is so great and what we can do to be better as individuals as we live within it. We truly do live in the lucky country, made lucky by those who have gone before us.

As a member of the 7th Battalion and the Australian Army, I often think about those who have served before me. I feel very privileged to be a soldier in the Australian Army serving this great country. The idea of Gallipoli and Anzac may be closely linked to the Army and the soldiers who serve, but the nation as a whole really owns the day, and all that it stands for that resonates within us.

By remembering the original Anzacs, by remembering all others in all conflicts in which Australian’s have died over the past century; by standing quietly at dawn services around the country, we show that we have not forgotten, nor will we ever forget the sacrifice made and the impact the loss of our servicemen and women has had on their families and our broader communities. We gather and will always gather, not to glorify war, but to remind ourselves that what we truly value is who we are as Australian’s and in turn where each of us has come from – a family, a community, a nation.

Lieutenant Colonel McCammon has seen operational service in East Timor, Kosovo, and Afghanistan in both command and staff appointments. He is a graduate of the Officer Cadet School, New Zealand, and the Australian Command and Staff College, as well as a National Security Fellow of the McCain Institute in Washington DC. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for leadership in action as commander of Australia’s first Operational Mentor Liaison Team in Afghanistan from 2008 – 2009.

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