We all have Anzac stories. We are descended from a generation who were willing to give up everything for the sake of future generations. Young men who were willing to leave wives and lovers, new babies and mothers, jobs and businesses, the farm, that car they’d saved for years to buy. Young women who were willing to do labouring work and factory work, get married in a day dress with a reception at home, wash nappies in a copper and make a packet of sugar last a month, join up and risk being taken prisoner, hold their breath every time the telegraph boy came down the street on his bicycle.
I am the eldest child of young parents, my partner is the youngest of older parents. So the generations cross over a generation back. My grandfather was in his thirties and left my pregnant grandmother at home with three kids when he went to New Guinea as an AMF volunteer in 1943. My partner’s father was just 20 when he joined up at the very start of the war, right after being best man at his best friend’s wedding. His friend was killed and he came back to marry his widow and raise his kids. Our son has marched several Anzac Days honouring his great grandfather and great great grandfather.
These were big decisions not lightly made. It is true the media and political dialogue at the time supported them, but both were smart men aware of the risks. My grandfather in particular was older and it was later in the war; he knew exactly what he was facing.
Our political dialogue these days sounds so whining and selfish in comparison. It paints a population unwilling to make even the smallest sacrifices for the common good, the good of people who will live with the consequences long after we are dead. It is shaming, but I think it is wrong. We are descended from Anzacs, and we are proud of it. And we need to live up to it.