I am just back from another moving and respectful Dawn Service here in Wellington. Right around the country tens of thousands of New Zealanders have been doing the same thing. I have reflected on the journey around ANZAC Day for me on Red Alert before. To me it is a day to remember, reflect and to hope for a peaceful future.
This morning the spouse of one of the diplomats at the service said that what she loved about the New Zealand services was that it could be relaxed and at the same time so moving. It is true here in Wellington that people wander up stand where and as they wish. There are a few seats, a small official party, but otherwise its a fully egalitarian event. The cup of tea afterwards at the Pipitea Marae is even more so.
Nice changes have been evident in recent years. I like that we now sing the Australian anthem along with the New Zealand one. I love that some of the remaining WW2 veterans are the ones who really belt out the Maori version of our anthem.
The parade has fewer veterans, but more family members. The crowd gets bigger, but the atmosphere does not change. I guess its kind of hard to change the dawn.
But most of all what I love is that it is a true community occasion, with all the generations represented. Wandering around as the day began to lighten up this morning I ran into families of all shapes and sizes. One boy said it was so early, he felt like it was really late. I know what he meant! Others were engaged in conversations about what different bits of the day meant. Others were taking the time to stroll through the grounds of Parliament and soak up another part of our history.
There was a small political element today that was not shied away from. The Wellington President of the RSA noted at the cuppa afterwards that this may have been the last service for The 7th battalion band who perform at ANZAC events in the region, and numerous other community events. They have had their very modest funding taken away. The penny pinching means that 7 of the 10 military bands around New Zealand will cease to exist from later this year. This is sad and wrong. There was some talk today that the band might continue to do ANZAC services without the backing of the military or the government. I hope they do, but more than that I hope the government reconsiders.
But overall this is not a day for politics. I get why some people still have mixed feelings about ANZAC Day. But I take my lead from the veteran I mentioned in the post linked to above. For him he was remembering his mates. This is a chance for the whole country to remember our mates- the past generations who made sacrifices. And to hope that future generations never need to face such things. Lest we forget.