Honor the ANZAC

Today is the 65th anniversary of the Allied landings at Normandy which turned the tide of World War II.  It was a pivotal moment in the war, and perhaps one of the most important moments of the twentieth century.

Deservedly, World War II continues to garner intense study, discussion, and attention.  After all, we are talking about the greatest sequel ever.  I mean, come on, it had everything: new and outrageous characters, better villains, darker material, higher stakes, bigger battles, a longer running time, and the grandest finale possible.

I mean no offense by this.  After all, it’s true.  But the thing about great sequels (The Godfather: Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, etc) is that you have to always hold a little bit of reverence for the source material.  In that vein, I thought today would be an appropriate time to share this news from the southern hemisphere…

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) –The last remaining Australian to serve in World War One has died at the age of 110, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin said on Wednesday.

John “Jack” Ross, who was also Australia‘s oldest man having turned 110 in March, died in his sleep early Wednesday morning at a nursing home in Bendigo in the state of Victoria.

Griffin said Ross was the last of 417,000 Australians who served in World War One and one of only a handful of remaining veterans from that war.

“It now falls to Australians everywhere to ensure that veterans memory is kept alive. We must ensure that their contribution to Australia’s wartime history is passed on to future generations, so that their sacrifice is never forgotten,” said Griffin.

This must have been a very poignant story for the Aussies.  I learned when I spent time in Australia that World War I is a far bigger deal to them than World War II, even though they were actively involved in both.  During World War I, the British still exerted considerable influence over the newly federated Australia, as they did with other colonies and commonwealths.  As such, it was Australian men who were sent to the front lines, meant to clear the way and secure the ground for their British cousins.  The loss of life among the ANZAC units (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was obviously substantial, given this arrangement.  Nearly an entire generation of young Aussies and Kiwis were lost on the battlefields of Europe.  In fact, I read an article during my studies there that argued that because so many of the most physically fit men of that generation never returned home, subsequent generations of Australians wound up being two to three inches shorter than they theoretically should have been.

This sacrifice has never left the Australian national conscience.  Monuments to the veterans of Great War can be found in every town.  Now that their final living link to what will soon be a hundred year old conflict has been severed, it will be interesting to see how the Australians continue to use the sacrifice of the ANZAC as part of their identity.

A salute to those who did what others could not.

~ T


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