Today is ANZAC Day. For those of you not aware what this is it a significant national occasion in both Australia and New Zealand and is always on the 25th April. ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps and during the war soldiers from Australia and New Zealand were always referred to as the ANZACs. The 25th April marks when the ANZACs landed on Gallipoli for the first major action in the First World War.
It’s a very symbolic day and is just as important if not more than Remembrance Day in both Australia and New Zealand. There is always a public holiday, dawn service (when the ANZACs landed at Gallipoli), commemorative services, marches through all towns and cities and a day to remember what the ANZACS endured so that we could have the life we have today.
In the small country town where I am from they do something to not only commemorate what the soldiers of the past 100 years did for us but also to show a younger generation just what the soldiers had to go through so that we can grow up in the beautiful country, we call home. The local High School and Rotary club work together to train and prepare year 10 and 11 students to walk the Kokoda Track in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.
The Kokoda Track is another significant part of Australia’s history. In the Second World War, Australian had many battles along the track with the Japanese forces and it was key to hold them out so as to protect Australia.
My dad and his friend Bruce have walked this track 7 times!! Actually, I think Bruce has walked it around 10 times. Yes, they are crazy! They have been instrumental in driving this in our town through the Dad at the School and Bruce in Rotary. It’s such an amazing thing that they are involved in they spend months (along with other leaders) training the students on walks, getting used to carrying the heavy packs and fundraising to support the trip. Most of the students haven’t been outside of Australia and in some case outside of New South Wales so to go to PNG and walk this track is such an eye opening experience. It’s also a huge sense of accomplishment in completing the track. It’s not easy, you don’t have a comfy bed, clean clothes, the only food you have is what you can carry and if its rains it is muddy. Really muddy!
My mum went with dad and a group of parents from town and although she is extremely fit she even found it challenging at times. In Spite of all the tough parts of the training and the actual hike, my dad does it time after time. I am immensely proud and in awe of him for this.
The trip is always around ANZAC day and this isn’t by accident. The track has memorials at both the start and end which allow anyone completing the chance to honour those that have fought and fallen both here and in any military campaign. The bond the trekkers make along the way, the old rusty machines still littering along the track showing glimpses into the past all are huge reminders of the past. When both mum and dad walked the track they experience a dawn service right there in the jungle. It would have been such an emotional experience. My Dad, Bruce and the rest of the trekkers have just returned from their most recent trip and were back in town (washed thankfully) and front row and centre at the local commemorative service heads a little higher, minds wiser and a deeper understanding and respect for the men and women involved in these campaigns.
I think it is so important as with many of the diggers passing away we need to make sure the younger generation engage, remember and respect the actions of those brave soldiers.
I would love to do this with dad one day. Just need to get training and maybe I’ll be ready by 2019. Actually maybe more like 2025. Need to stop eating ANZAC biscuits!
Photos courtesy of Bruce Wright and Debbie Harris
Debbie has also blogged about her experiences walking the Kokoda Track and you can find them here