Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In bitter safety....

Memorial Day has just passed by in the US. In Australia, the nearest equivalent is Remembrance Day, although ANZAC Day means as much or more. To me the first remembers 'The Fallen', the second all those who served.

I first heard the following lines at the end of a TV mini series - 'The ANZACs';
"...In bitter safety I awake, unfriended;
And while the dawn begins with slashing rain
I think of the Battalion in the mud.
'When are you going out to them again?
Are they not still your brothers through our blood?'
(From Sick Leave, by Siegfried Sassoon).

Active service is another planet that those who have 'seen the elephant' often cannot explain to anyone who has not shared that horror. (I served during the Cold War, just post Vietnam, so I was spared those experiences).
Those who have served, in war or in peace, may be able to glimpse the shared feelings behind those few, complex sentences above.

In our little country town, we have a Club (The Club), the RSL or Returned Services League club. In common with every similar one throughout Australia, as far as I know, at 6PM the following ritual is performed, and with reverence;
The lights go down, the billiard balls and gaming machines go quiet, people stand, and the following is recited;
"...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.
To which the patrons reply;
Lest we Forget.
Then, slowly, the club returns to life. Perhaps to those from outside Australia, or even our immigrants (new Australians we called them) that custom may seem a little quaint. If your family goes back several generations or more, as mine does, and you have lost soldiers in both world wars, and each generation also has served, it's not so hard to understand why it continues.

Lest we Forget.


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