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April 19, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Editorial

It’s Anzac Day this Sunday. Some of you will make the pilgrimage to the dawn service at the Cenotaph. Some of you will probably be nursing hangovers of various intensities. Some of you will probably wake up and forget that it’s Anzac Day and head to a store, only to find it doesn’t open until 1pm. Anzac Day means different things to different people.

To be honest, I had never attended a dawn service until I was asked to speak at the Feilding service when I was 17. A student is selected from my high school each year to speak about what Anzac Day means to them, and what relevance Anzac Day holds for young people in New Zealand. It was one of the first times that I really had to think about what Anzac Day meant to me, and what impact World War One in particular had on my family.

My great grandfather served in the Great War, and fought primarily on the Western Front. He fought in battles like Passchendale, Ypres and the Somme. The Western Front would prove to be much more of a bloodbath for New Zealand soliders than Gallipoli, as thousands and thousands of men lost their lives in the trenches. He was one of the lucky ones to come back alive.

My great grandfather never opened his war medals. Upon his return to New Zealand there were no pubs open within a convenient radius of the wharf where his ship docked. This inconvenience prompted his decision not to open his medals—it was a protest, a simple act that expressed his dissatisfaction with what he deemed to be a common courtesy: have a jolly pub open for the returned servicemen. The least they deserved after all they witnessed was a drink.

The scars of war do not fade quickly. Many of those men who returned from war had personal demons to battle. The memory of war, the trenches, death would remain with them for the rest of their lives. For many of those who returned, alcohol numbed that pain. But it was not just the men themselves who would grapple with those emotional wounds of war. Family members and friends would struggle to understand their experiences. Many men never spoke again of what they saw. It took a personal toll, on the men and their families alike.

While milling around after the dawn service in Feilding in 2005, one woman came up to me and thanked me for remembering those men who returned. Although my gran couldn’t make it to the service, she wished me the best of luck. She assured me I’d do my great grandfather proud.

For me, Anzac Day is about remembering not just those who lost their lives in conflict. It’s also about remembering those who came back, but were never quite the same as they were when they left. It’s about remembering the impact the war had on their families, and the legacy this leaves for succeeding generations. War touches many lives. It touches many families.

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Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

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