Marching with my Dad

I received an email from friend saying the world does not honour our servicemen and women any more - and complained we are not allowed to pray in public places, whilst 'others' (ie Muslims) are.  This is not true, but it is what he said. 

Australia celebrates Anzac Day with reverence and honour with parades and dawn services with candles and prayers and wreath laying, in every city and almost every tiny town and beach around Australia. Aussie pride is at its greatest - and the marches grow bigger every year, children and schools sing and march, Joshua and I and friends marched with my Dad every year for the last decade, at least, of his life – and I have marched every year bar one (when I was overseas) since his death, pushing an empty wheelchair, with his hat, his cane and his photo, and we are surrounded by loving friends, proud to march with us. My Dad bequeathed his medals to Joshua, who wears them with great pride.  I wear Gerald’s Dad' medals, and feel very honoured.

We are, apparently, one of the few countries in the world to have not only continued this tradition of honouring our veterans, but as the years progress, and they have died, their children and grandchildren and friends have taken their place. It is the one day in the year when ‘Two Up’ is allowed to be played in pubs as well – to remember our old diggers and other brave men and women who served. People drape their homes and cars with flags, wear temporary tattoos on their faces and bodies, have BBQ’s and generally honour those who died. Gerald and I are going with friends next year in April to the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipolli – something else that grows larger year after year.

We have a WHOLE SHIPLOAD of Australians going – it sails from Venice to Istanbul, with military historians on board and services and even a competition between the Turks (who honour the fallen Aussies as ‘their own sons’) and a large group of Aussie lifesavers and choirs of children and musicians.

 Historically Gallipolli was another horrific blunder by the British Army, who sent these men out in their thousands to be slaughtered - in the WRONG place apparently – and KNOWING they faced certain death. So so so so sad. So if we can honour those who fell, its a small act.

There are less and less old gentlemen and ladies marching today, and they largely travel in open vehicles, and people line the streets in their thousands and thousands, literally – all waving flags and cheering, many crying.

Often, when I marched with my Dad, people would leave the pavement and come up and shake his hand. I wrote a letter once to the Sydney Morning Herald about it, they published it – and there was a big response. There was my Dad, marching along, a VERY long route in Sydney, down George Street – and people were waving at him and shouting thank you, bless you, and coming out to shake his hand or kiss him. He turned to me, nonplussed, and said “Who are they waving at?” – and I said “You, Dad.  They’re saying thank you to YOU.”

I cried for love of him.