I will be up early on Sunday, and like many New Zealanders will be at a number of different events marking ANZAC Day. It is a great day to honour servicemen and women and remember people who have given their lives in the service of our country. Waitangi Day is still our national day from my point of view, but it is clear ANZAC Day is providing a sense of belonging, and a time for reflection and remembrance that New Zealanders are looking for.
It was not always so for me. I can remember as a 16 year old avoiding a school ANZAC service on the grounds that I do not believe in war, and I did not want to glorify it. I was young and naive. I also think that at that point (in the mid 80s) the day had not taken on the inclusive and unifying feel it has now. It was the time of fierce debate over nuclear ships and ANZUS, not to mention the whole prospect of dying in a nuclear war thing.
I worked out over the next period of time that in fact the day was not about glorifying war, but rather remembering sacrifice. A conversation with a veteran as I was finishing school crystallised it for me. He asked me to think about my friends from school, say imagine a photo from your school ball with 20 friends in it. Then imagine within two years there were only four of you left. That was his experience.
He was not interested in glorifying war (in fact he detested it, and thought New Zealand should avoid it all costs, as I still do). But he did want to remember his mates. And I reckon that is worth getting up early for.