I know it’s a week past for the 100 years anniversary of the landing of Gallipoli, but for the last few months I have been thinking hard how to remember this incredibly important date in Australian history. Three years ago, our family went over to Turkey for a couple of weeks and spent the day at Gallipoli. It was a humbling, bittersweet day. Scrambling into the trenches and seeing just how far (read: close) the enemy’s were, looking down over the *impossibly steep* Walkers Ridge, envisaging ‘home’ built on the narrow beaches. Seeing row after row of graves, Turkish and Allies’ alike, and walking through the Nek where hundreds of Australians charged to their inevitable death, facing nothing but canons and guns that killed so many in the space of a tennis court.
The thing that got me the most, personally, walking through these battle fields, was the inscriptions on the grave stones. The names and the ages of these men. Some were hardly older than me, some lied about their age to get in, some had an excessive amount of initials or funny surnames that surely caught the brunt of some jokes in attempt to keep spirits up. They were just ordinary people. And just like any ordinary person, they were no angels. They made their fair share of mistakes and had their own shortcomings, just like us.
Walking around the graves, shaded by trees and padded by grass, it humbled me to know these men were just normal blokes with hidden stories, abandoned dreams, and undiscovered gifts. It makes me think of the girls and families left behind who never saw their boys come back. I wonder about the talent that died there on the shore, the jokes and stories never told, the confusion and terror felt on the battlefield. Who was the other Donald Bradman, the secret Mozart, the aspiring writer, or unknown genius?
They gave it all up, put their lives on the line, still hoping they would one day return but sparing nothing in the meantime, because they believed in Australia, believed in a free country, and believed freedom was worth fighting for. They stepped up in bravery, though their own life beginnings, their persona, their moment in history, was nothing particularly out of the ordinary. What they chose to do, however – how they lived their lives with integrity, was remarkable, and I hope we today, will be brave enough to do the same – to give our all, to live with conviction and enthusiasm, to fight with loyalty, to stick to our mates, to lend a hand, to see the person in the enemy lines, to work with doggedness and determination in the face of failure, pain, and death.
That’s our boys. And they’re just like us, today. Lest we forget.