Returned service men and women; Families of service personnel; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen; Boys and Girls –
Love has the power to cause a genuine response in every human heart.
You may have heard these words: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three. But the greatest of these is love.”
In the hateful theatres of war in Western Europe, North Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East, each conflict came at a huge cost to peace-loving Australian communities during every quarter of the 20th Century.
And yet, those many Australians and her allies caught up in the defence of our freedom, have been people who loved their country and loved their families back home.
The youngest half of our population have been affected by recent conflicts. But we are fortunate that we have been, mostly, spared upheaval of the scale that my parents’ and grandparents’ generations experienced from the Great War through to the Vietnam War.
These wars brought deep and cruel grief into Australian communities regularly. The avenues of trees in even our smallest rural towns testify to the scale of loss and grief.
The social upheaval was on a nationwide scale – most if not all people were touched by it, most if not all groups of people got involved in the war effort in some way.
And of course the upheaval was deeply personal for hundreds of thousands of distraught Australian mums, dads, brothers, sisters, wives and sweethearts.
Today of all days we are all thankful for the price paid by more than one hundred and two thousand Australians for the way of life that we take for granted on most other days. And on occasions like this one when we stop and remind ourselves of our freedoms, our way of life and how we were given them, we try our best to understand what it was like for those who sacrificed their all.
Many of us try to understand what our veterans from conflicts such as the World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan experienced. What were their love stories? Did they have a happy ending or a tragic one?
From the peace and quiet of a library, the Australian War Memorial or a local RSL sub-branch museum, I’m sure most of us have stood in front of the exhibits and imagined what it was like to be away from loved ones, to have to fight, and to hope or worry about what tomorrow or the day after that will bring.
Well, maybe a love letter would do a better job. After all, we can read it as it was intended for the recipient.
Here’s one from Lance Bombardier Edgar Marchant to his much loved wife Ida in 1943:
One day when you are in Melb darl get me another one of your photos I have in my wallet. I am afraid the one I have will get rather Knocked about + I want one of them when I come home. Gee darl I love you + would swap all the photographs in the world if I could be with you again.
It says so much in that short part, doesn’t it? Maybe being so far away from his wife Ida and little girl Jennifer in a faraway, brutal theatre of war coupled with an instinctive fear of uncertain death caused him and his comrades to pour out words of love such as they had never written before.
We can imagine that writing love letters from war was a small comfort to the serviceman and an expression of true love toward those waiting at home, out of reach, no doubt keeping a close eye on the mailbox.
It’s amazing how the human heart can respond to adversity with ever more love and reaching out for love in return.
This cenotaph, like thousands of places of pride around Australia, carry the names of those who came from this City, who served and who fell to protect the freedom of our living generations, here and now.
They died not knowing if their country would remember them. We always will.
The one who died in battle and the one who returned, they both paid a price for their nation. We call it sacrifice.
Let’s remember those who returned home – but who silently carried the sights, sounds, smells, and wounds of war into what was supposed to be a normal everyday life. They came back, but they too made their own sacrifice and many were changed by what they faced.
To those here today who can relate to this, these thousands of Northern Tasmanians say to you we acknowledge you, admire you and send you our love too.
For those who gave themselves for us, we will always remember them with profound gratitude.
If we consider the love of a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a husband or a wife, we see the full value of what they gave up -everything. They forfeited life with loved ones, raising families, watching their children grow and building a nation for peace and prosperity. They did this for their country and for future generations. They did this for us.
So we will remember them. We honour them. We thank them and God for our free nation we did not earn but we’ve inherited.
We can now resolve every day to live lives worthy of that inheritance and pay it forward to the next generation so they too can be a blessing to the next.
And as for love: it is not a momentary romantic meaning on this day when we stop to remember. True love, helps us to understand and cope with life, even through chaos, loss and tragedy. It is real, it is forgiving, it is generous, it promotes the best in others, it makes life better.
And we bear witness to that power on Anzac Day.
As it is written, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down his life for a friend”.
Lest we forget.