This might seem a little late, but after putting up a post on my Facebook site (one that was meant to be about two lines long, but somehow kept going), I started to get some calls, emails, and messages from people who could relate. People whose emotions around ANZAC Day are as complex as mine, if not more so. People who really seemed to connect with what was written
In the end, I think it had a positive impact. And if I can get a bit more positivity out there, then why not? Plus, if it looks like a blog post, reads like a blog post etc. . .well, I figured I better put it up.
It might not be the greatest formatted or grammatically correct piece, but this is one that came from a very personal place. I always have trouble writing this time of year, but this is maybe what I can do. This is how I do therapy – getting the words out to express that which ironically, can’t really be expressed in words.
Here ’tis (link then words):
Most people who know me also know I spent the majority of my adult life in the military. In fact, I’m heading back into a uniformed role soon, which will be . . .interesting . . .after some time away.
It might seem strange then that I rarely feel comfortable sharing or writing about anything about ANZAC day. It’s not that I want to disrespect the day, or that I have anything against it. In fact, I hold out hope that the commemorations of wars, and the constant reminding of the cost they induce might make people think twice about the next time they want to start a conflict.
But I guess the main thing that makes me hesitate is that there are a bunch of complex issues, and bunch more complex emotions surrounding it.
The thing is, ANZAC Day brings a lot of emotions to the fore. I consider myself lucky to have served with some truly extraordinary people, and I’m proud of the achievements of some of them too.
It also reminds me of the time we had just finished an intense period of training, and just before we left the ship to go home for a break leading up to ANZAC Day, a colleague killed themselves on board the ship. Six months later, another followed suit.
It reminds me of the time I was on night shift, and a signal came through notifying us of death of an officer on leave. The name on the signal was a good friend of both mine and my wife’s.
It reminds me of launching helicopters and seaboats simultaneously while executing precision maneuvering, with a stupid grin on my face because I was having so much fun, and meeting all sorts of great people from other countries and other cultures, hearing their perspectives and widening my own view.
It reminds me of the intellect and compassion of some of the best leaders and people I’ve ever come across, and watching their careers soar.
It reminds me of ‘leadership’ personnel who simply allowed their subordinate to fade away and die due to a lack of the same attributes.
The contrasting emotions and experiences of my service seem to be heightened by days like this. And to be honest, I got away reasonably unscarred from my time in the military
I think that’s the bit that I find the most difficult. If this is a complex time for me, and I generally had a pretty good career, how hard must it be for those who still suffer for their time in uniform? How heightened are their emotions? What if I say the wrong thing, or they take something the wrong way? Should I be reaching out to someone? Who? Will my lack of participation be seen as a rejection? But what if I say the wrong thing? What impact will that have on people? Who will it trigger?
I know most of the worries are ridiculous, especially the last couple, but that’s how my brain works
I guess the point of all this is to point out, however; as conflicting as the day is for me, it’s a hundred times more difficult for others. Not only today, but potentially every day of the year, or for some, sporadically at unpredictable times.
Veterans are not the only people who suffer in silence, so maybe it’s a little selfish of me to limit the focus. But still, that is my area. It’s who and what I know, and quite frankly, I don’t want to lose anyone more friends if I can help it.
So this ANZAC Day, whether you are commemorating or not, I would ask of this; try to view veterans outside of personal views on war, or specific wars, outside of politics or election campaigns etc. Remember they are people first. Be kind, be compassionate, and if you come across someone suffering, remember that this is not the only day they suffer. It might just be the only day it’s so close to the surface that you see it.