On A.N.Z.A.C. Day at a memorial service, a man and his 12 year old son had an angry exchange with peace activists. The activists were . In doing so it seems to have triggered a debate about the true meaning of the day when New Zealanders and Australians come together to commemorate their past in war.
There is no doubt that the interpretation of what A.N.Z.A.C. Day means differs considerably from one to the next, from person to person; from group to group. The accuracy of what people think as opposed to what its stated purpose is, is even more diverse. According to the Returned Services Association (R.S.A.), the meaning of A.N.Z.A.C. Day is to acknowledge the past sacrifices made; to understand that war is not nice and to make sure that what happened in past wars is not forgotten, and the horrors never repeated again.
My own interpretation of A.N.Z.A.C. Day is the similar to that of the R.S.A. There is nothing about it that tries to glorify war. Do the veterans that are still alive think that it was fun and that they enjoyed themselves? Hardly. Normally when you talk to them about comrades that they lost and the mental scars it inflicted on them . When they hear The Last Post and the three volleys that often follow, for many of them it is quite a painful moment tearing up at the memory of all those whose funerals on foreign battlefields that they attended.
This contradicts activist groups such as Peace Action Network who frown upon nations having a military for defence. For them there is no need for an armed military capable of protecting a nations sovereignty. Peace Action Network and their fellow organizations have 364 other days of the year in which they can protest. They can protest (peacefully!)when dignitaries come to visit New Zealand from other countries. They can write letters, e-mails, create/sign petitions, organize debates and so forth.
It is true that I have some sympathy for their work. The amount of expenditure going on in terms of individual nations defence against perceived and real threats is quite staggering, and some arms programmes such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a totally unneeded venture. The destabilization of nations in order to pursue the obtaining of raw materials is often carried out in order to justify defence expenditure that would otherwise have been cut.
But on A.N.Z.A.C Day I solemnly believe the day to belong to the people who have served in the New Zealand Defence Force in the past and not come home; the people who served and came home, but possibly have painful memories or were wounded. And finally it is for those that current serve in the armed forces, irrespective of rank.
But it is not for Peace Action Network and like organizations.