We went to visit Liz’s parents in the country city of Bathurst to watch her Dad march in the ANZAC parade. As these amazing returned service men and women marched along the street, the applause from the crowd was both uplifting and very moving.
As I watched the eyes of those marching by, I could only guess at what emotions and memories were being replayed for them on this one day of the year where we as a nation join together to say thank you to those who fought and returned from war, and to remember those who fought and lost their lives so that we can all enjoy Australian life as it is today.
It’s a bit of tradition that around the country, stories were being shared between old and young, and I wanted to share this story with you that was shared with me on this ANZAC day. It is about a Vietnam veteran who was among the first of our men to be sent to fight in Vietnam.
As I don’t have permission from the Vietnam veteran to use his name, I will call him Bill.
Recently Bill was invited to fly to a small town in Western Australia where a monument had been built in honour of one of the men who served and sadly died in the regiment that Bill was in charge of.
Bill was unaware until he received the invite all these years later, just how highly he was thought of and spoken about by this young man before he died in battle. The letters he had sent home to his parents and friends often referred to Bill’s leadership and his character.
At the ceremony unveiling the monument in honour of this young man who had lost his life at war, a number of the other men who served in the same regiment, who Bill had not seen for many years, spoke of Bill’s leadership, character, and how they remembered also how proud this young man had been to serve for his country, and how proud and privileged they all were to have had Bill leading them.
Bill is a proud man, and these accolades of his leadership and character, while welcomed, were as he said in his speech to this small community who knew of Bill through the letters and the stories that had been shared over many years, were no match for the bravery and sad sacrifice that this young man had given for his country.
This story was shared with me by one of Bill’s closest friends.
As we commemorate ANZAC day this year, and as I reflect on this story shared with me, aside from the atrocities of war and the importance of us publicly thanking the courage and commitment of those who have served, those who have returned and those who unfortunately lost their lives, the message that resonates with me more than anything else, is the power of story to connect us as humans.
As we sat together as a family on the night of ANZAC day, and shared some of the stories from Liz’s family history, from war time experienced by her parents and as Liz’s parents reflected on the stories that their parents had shared with them, there was a wonderful loving engagement between us all.
What a gift!
I’ve just sent my own Dad who will be celebrating his 80th birthday in July a small book that I purchased recently that is filled with mostly blank lined pages, with questions about life for him to record his story.
We are so much looking forward to reading his life reflections – while we’ve heard many stories from my Dad over the years about his life, growing up in a small rural community, having them written, to be passed on, is a legacy well worth working on.
I hope I get to share some of his stories with you here when his ‘homework’ is completed.
Reflecting on this ANZAC week now past, as you read this blog post, I hope it inspires you to pick up the phone, write a letter or share your life’s stories in a conversation with family or friends.
Lest we forget.