They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.
Today is a proud day in my family, like many other Australians. A day to reflect on all the people who served to protect our safety and security as a country and their own lives they may have sacrificed in the process. It’s a day to be extremely grateful for all that we have. In my families case it’s a day to be thankful that we exist.
My grandfather, as many other grandfathers did, signed up and was shipped off to fight in WW2. As far as we knew growing up, he had been involved in communications as a radio operator somewhere in the South Pacific. He had played an important role, but never been involved in armed combat or on the front line. That was the end of his war story… until the 11th July 2006, when we finally discovered the real story.
The day of my grandfather’s funeral was a sad occasion, but at the same time a celebration of one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. My grandfather lived to 88 years of age. He was married to the love of his life for over 60 years, until she had passed away two years previously. He had received an Order of Australia medal for his work in the community and he’d had false teeth that he used to poke out at my sister and I, to send us running, screaming and laughing through the house to cuddle up to grandma or mum or dad, in the hopes that those crazy teeth didn’t get us.
I don’t think my Dad, Sister or I fully understood just how amazing he was until the wake held in the little rec room at my grandfather’s local church on a sunny July afternoon. When we spoke with a friend of my grandfather’s, who used to bring him library books to read each week. It was on one of these visits that a book triggered my grandfather to share this story with him… In WW2 my grandfather had been in the field. He had been based in Victoria Township in Labaun, Borneo. One particular Sunday he was supposed to lead his men out into the field, as per normal routine. This particular Sunday, him and his men stayed in camp to attend a church service run by a visiting preacher. They’d not had any religious guidance in months and my grandfather, a man of faith, didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. This applied to the other groups of men due to go on patrol. Some decided to stay and others decided to go. On this particular Sunday, the men who stayed to pray, survived. The men who went on patrol did not. They made it less than 10 miles outside of camp before they were bombed/gunned down.
This is all of the story we ever received. We’d always asked my grandfather about the war, but he always managed to vaguely glaze over his experience and redirect the conversation. It was at this moment that my Dad, Sister and I wished that we’d continued asking questions. Wished that we’d gotten to know the full story. But it was too late. We would never know the full details of the story or how close to truth it was. But it didn’t really matter. All that did matter was that due to a small act on faith, my family, myself, exist today. It could have turned out very differently, as many other families have experienced with the loss of sons fighting for our country. Anzac Day is a day to remember not just those that have served and continued to serve to protect our country, but a day to be grateful for the freedom and existence we have because of their courage.