I will be uploading a daily(ish) blog during my 3 week stay in Australia, and this trip is made possible by SportsHosts. The following is a part of this series. You can also find this on the SportsHosts blog here!
DAY 4, PT 1: ANZAC DAY MEMORIAL
If you are wondering where day 3 went, don’t worry you didn’t miss it! My third day here was mostly me working away behind a computer screen and prepping for the next day, Anzac Day.
However, I did get a chance to go out in Melbourne and explore their great cocktail culture. If you ever find your way here, they make a delicious espresso martini so add that to your list. Also, my gluten free and vegetarian friends will have no problems dining out at any restaurant.
Have I mentioned yet how I have fallen in love with Melbourne?
I made sure that was an early night (despite tasting my way through their cocktail culture), as I had to be up and on the train to dawn service by 4:50am. Across Australia, there is a service held on the start of Anzac day. The weather that morning was less than ideal in Melbourne (read: it was pouring rain). Much to my surprise, this did not seem to deter flocks of people from coming to pay their respects to troops – past and present.
The Dawn Service starts at about 6am, although there is an intro that starts about 5:30am. Essentially, you are standing there with hundreds of other people in a crowd and listening to the speakers talk about the spirit of Anzac day and discussing their history. The phrase is “Lest We Forget.” Depending on who you ask, you may get a different response on what that means to them. However, what I took away from it is that they don’t want to forget their history and some of the errors of war that they have made in the past, nor forget what our troops currently sacrifice for their country.
The whole service was quite somber. In the moments of silence, all you heard was the rain falling on our umbrellas, which was fitting with the tone of the moment. One thing I loved at the service was the continuous open and honest discussion about life after being in the service. PTSD is a serious issue, and it is great to see that everyone here in Australia seems to talk about that as a top priority on Anzac day.
Once the dawn service in Melbourne people spread out to partake in the rest of the days activities. Some go to the Shrine of Remembrance to lay a poppy flower down. The dawn service is located in the quad area around the Shrine, so it isn’t a far walk there. Also located in the area is the eternal flame. Here is where I was given a poppy flower and laid it down next to the flame. The poppy flower that was given to me was said to be a poppy flower for peace.
Here, I had the chance to interview some people who were in attendance. I was amazed at how many younger people showed up at 5:30am in the rain for this event. Someone said something very interesting to me about their thoughts on why the younger generation is really keeping with the Anzac Day tradition. She said, “the younger generation is really reaching out for this day. They want something to tie them to Australian culture. So many people tell them they are too young, and that they don’t have a uniquely distinct Australian culture. Today is a way for them to feel connected to it, and show everyone that they do have that distinct Australian culture.” I am not sure if many would agree or disagree with her, but it could be part of the explanation as to why so many come to pay their respects early in the morning every April 25th.
I was lucky enough to speak to many people in attendance, including a woman who has served for over 15 years. Hearing her discuss what this day meant to her was something I will never forget. Everyone I talked to spoke about how later in the day, at the footy, hearing the crowd completely silent before the anthem is spine chilling. The service woman I spoke with was one of the lucky few who was going to be down on the field during this moment. I couldn’t wait to experience it for myself.
The day continues on with a parade that marches down St. Kilda Street towards the Shrine of Remembrance. At this point, I headed back to where I was staying to take break for a few hours. Waking up at 3:30am plus standing in the rain for several hours took a slight toll on me. Today was going to be a long one, and getting two hours to relax was necessary. My next stop would be meeting up with my team at the Richmond RSL (Returned and Service’s League).
When I first arrived at the RSL, there were only a handful of people upstairs. The RSL is a support organization for men and women who have served or are serving in the Defense Force. Most people wouldn’t show up for a few more hours after they were finished marching in the parade. Visiting here was something I won’t ever forget; it completed tied together the entire meaning of Anzac Day and the connection to sport. The day starts off somber – a time to reflect and pay tribute to the Defense Force. Throughout the day, you work your way toward celebration and paying tribute to the Defense Force. To celebrate the Australian and Anzac spirit, 100,000 people come together at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch the footy. I couldn’t wait to get over to the MCG.`
That’s it for now, stay tuned for part 2 of ANZAC Day tomorrow…