26 Apr 2017
Veterans embodying Anzac spirit on daily basis
By John Coyne
At Anzac dawn services across Australia, tens of thousands of Australians will have uttered the ode: “We will remember them.”
After the solemnness of the dawn service, the day will bring with it the marches with flag waving, applause and endless speeches about mateship and Australia’s enduring Anzac spirit.
By day’s end, everyone’s duty is felt to be done and our veterans are left to live their lives until next year.
No veteran is likely to have an issue with anyone honouring the service and sacrifice of generations past and present — even if it’s on just one day. But it’s easy for them to be aggrieved by Australia’s contemporary, all-inclusive Anzac Day.
For those veterans in need, it’s often hard to square a day of public interest with 364 days of what feels like indifference.
Amid the spectacle that is Anzac Day, it’s easy for veterans to forget that their service has earnt them membership in a very exclusive group. And with this membership comes intrinsic, yet intangible, benefits that few others will ever experience. You only have to look to groups such as Soldier On to see how much of a difference veterans can make in the community.
I myself am making the journey away from being angry and lost on Anzac Day.
Over the past year, I have reconnected with what it means to be part of a veteran community.
Until recently I had considered the way veterans can bond so quickly — often after not talking to each other for years — an exclusive Anzac trait.
But the bond between veterans extends far beyond Australia’s shores.
During a recent work trip to the US, I was pleased to hear that one of my hosts was an ex-Marine. After discovering that we were both veterans, my host organised an evening with a group of other veterans drinking tequila, smoking cigars and playing dominoes.
Among the five of us there was well over a hundred years of service: different countries, services and military deployments. There was the typical good-hearted service rivalry with the Marine and Navy veterans mocking my service with the army.
Despite all of the differences I found in them a sense of mateship that embodied what is so often referred to as the Anzac spirit.
It was then that I realised one of the upsides of being a veteran.
For myself, standing silently in the pre-dawn chill on a small hill out in the bush on Anzac Day is how I choose to commemorate those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Later in the day I am going to pay my dues for my membership in one of Australia’s most exclusive clubs by hitting the phone to chat to a few mates in need a call.
For the rest of the year I’ll continue to catch up with old Army mates once a month over breakfast. And those who are a little further away, almost daily through Facebook banter.
For me, like many other veterans, the spirit of Anzac isn’t just found in a dawn service or parade.
Dr John Coyne is head of Border Security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Originally published: The Daily Telegraph. 25 April 2017