The Anzac Spirit – Alive and Well

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“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
~ David Foster Wallace

I live in the picturesque Byron Shire – a million miles away from battlefields and war zones.  Ours is the place where people come to enjoy some rest, sunshine, catch a few waves and enjoy a couple of beers as the sun goes down.

On a morning like many others I woke early and headed into Byron Bay for a swim and a good coffee.  I parked my car, and began walking up the street towards the beach.  The town was mostly still asleep, and all you could hear was the distant rolling surf and the morning chorus of birdsong.

Behind me some sleepy-eyed young men tumbled out of a local motel, clad in boardshorts and singlets, towels flung over their shoulders.

Suddenly there was a loud bang.  I jumped, startled, and glanced around to see where the noise had come from.  Bang!  It sounded like a small explosion.  The noise shattered the stillness of the morning, and the bangs kept coming.

Inexplicably I found myself shielded by three young men, pressed into the safety of a doorway.  The tension was palpable, and then it dissolved as an old Kombi lurched past us, still backfiring.

We all laughed.  I laughed heartily, feeling silly to have been frightened by something so ordinary.  The young men laughed uncomfortably, and then began apologising profusely for having shoved me off the street.

“It’s okay, you probably haven’t had your coffee yet,” I said, trying to make them feel better.

“Actually, it’s the first day of our holiday,” explained one.  “Can you tell us where to get a good brew?”

I did one better, and shouted them a coffee at my favourite local cafe.  Turns out the young men were three of our soldiers, just back from a tour of Afghanistan.  They apologised again and again for being jumpy, but I was just grateful that their first instinct had been to take care of me, before they even knew what the threat was.

Soldiers from the Mentoring Task Force take a break in the Charmestan Valley, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. Picture: Images Defence Source: AdelaideNow

Soldiers from the Mentoring Task Force take a break in the Charmestan Valley, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. Picture: Images Defence Source: AdelaideNow

It was enlightening to talk with them.  They were so proud of the efforts of Australia’s military, and had obvious love of their work.  We talked about their overseas tours, and their work closer to home, helping out after cyclones and floods.  They talked about the morale of our troops, and the excitement and emotional uplift when care packages arrived in the mail.  Of what it meant to receive letters from school children, and ANZAC biscuits and Vegemite from people they’d never met, but who were thinking of them, so far from home.

They talked of comrades injured, or killed.  And the strong bonds of friendship.

By the time they’d finished their coffees they were relaxed again.  Three mates heading off up the street to go for a body surf, to lie in the sun, and then to go in search of breakfast.

Today, ANZAC Day, I’m thinking of those three young men; their courage and their values.  The ANZAC Spirit is alive and well, and I’m so very proud and grateful.

Lest We Forget.

Remembered ... The coffins of Australian soldiers Benjamin Chuck, Timothy Aplin and Scott Palmer during their memorial service in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. Picture: Corporal Raymond Vance, Department of Defence

Remembered … The coffins of Australian soldiers Benjamin Chuck, Timothy Aplin and Scott Palmer during their memorial service in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. Picture: Corporal Raymond Vance, Department of Defence

70 thoughts on “The Anzac Spirit – Alive and Well

  1. Lovely story! Special Liason! I love how life places special people in our path everyday, we just have to realise this and embrace our journey! Less we forget! Love and warm hug! Xxx

  2. Nicole what a lovely encounter and a special reminder at the significance of today. It certainly isn’t a day given to glorifying war but for giving thanks to those who have and those who continue to sacrifice so very much for us. I became quite emotional reading how these young men are so conditioned by war that they react in such strong ways to loud noises and that they reacted to strongly to protect you. On the one hand that’s a great instinct yet, on the other, a huge burden. How can we ever forget?

    • You put that so beautifully – that is both and great instinct and a burden. How do our returned servicemen and women adapt to life at home again? And how can we better help them and their families to cope. We can’t afford to forget. It’s always going to be a work in progress…

  3. Much gratitude to our wonderful servicemen and women who leave their families to serve away in challenging conditions, and miss out on modern comforts, special time that they are never going to get back with their children and partners, and the possibility of injuries both physical and mental. They make me so proud and appreciative of the daily sacrifices that they are making for all of us.

  4. My beloved partner is a Soldier. He is the most generous, loving, generous, fun human I have ever met. He loves me thoroughly and consciously. He makes me think and laugh and grow and I count my blessings every day. He cares for me in the smallest, gentlest ways and in the biggest, most fundamental ways. The love that this man’s giant, lion heart has to give is a true blessing.

    He carries his many injuries from is 32 years of service quietly, uncomplaining, until he just can’t help it, before he will seek help. He always eats last yet never takes the last piece of anything. He carries heavy loads and always shoulders whichever burden is there at the time. He is always making the world around him a better place, always tries the hardest he can. He spends months away, not wanting to but accepting that it is part of his life of commitment and service. He lives his life in sacrifice, but not suffering in the sacrifice, just doing it, because he knows he can more easily than others so he just does it. However his nervous system often reacts in the way Nicole has described in her blog. If a car backfires, if a door slams or if he walks into a piece of wire, his whole system automatically reacts due to both his experiences and his training. And all I can do is give him a hug and a kiss, sit with him, make him a cup of tea, (apologise for dropping that thing I dropped on the tiles that make that almighty bang – why did he get together with such a clumsy girl!??!!) and remind his nervous system that he is safe and loved.

    I respect this man wholly, love him with all of my being and do my level best to allow him a life with me that is loving, easy, fun, safe, warm, fed and comfortable – all the things that he has sacrificed so may times for all of us. Thank you Tom, my love, for all the giving that you do, every single day.

    • What a lovely tribute to your special man, Amy. Whilst reading both your and Nicole’s experiences, it suddenly occurred to me – soldiers are also lightworkers but the arena within which they operate is far removed from the one which we espouse. They definitely do deserve the best of everything – through the decades Australians have been blessed to have so many brave and selfless men walk in their midst ……

      • Totally agree with your insights, Mitch. Soldiers, like anyone else, can be Lightworkers. And someone is always needed to do the hard jobs, the dirty and the difficult jobs. There are many, many ways to serve…

      • Wow Amy, that was so beautifully written. A super huge thankyou to Tom and all his colleagues who go about their lives and jobs with such dedication and commitment. Such strength balanced with such tenderness, as you have shown us! Thankyou xx

  5. What beautiful, spirited young men. I’ve often passed men wearing medals and simply said ‘thank you’ – not just on ANZAC Day, either. There are no other words that need to be said. They know what I’m saying thank you for. I’ll go back to bawl over my veggie juice now xoxo

    • Can I borrow that sentiment from you CJM? When I see that Aussie flag on the camouflaged arm-sleeve, I am going to say ‘thankyou’. So simple yet soooooo powerful, and unexpected I would imagine! I always get a bit over=emotional when I see it, but so important to express it. x

  6. Anzac Day is an important day for us to honour and remember those who fought and are still fighting for the wonderful freedom we enjoy here. Thank you your beautiful post that illustrated that so perfectly.

  7. Great post Ms. Cody! Very powerful and moving to think of the armed forces everywhere fighting for freedom everywhere. Your story reminded me of a time where I was taking a family picture in Lake Las Vegas Hotel. I was a volunteer missionary for my church and lived in areas where gunfights were common. We were just about to take the picture when someone slammed a trash can so loud that it sounded like a gunshot. I almost hit the ground then realized where the noise came from. Glad I am not the only one who gets jumpy with loud noises 🙂 Again, great post!

    http://lifeismuyfantastico.wordpress.com/

  8. I haven’t heard of Anzac Day before. Thank you for opening me up to this national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.

  9. Salute to fallen comrades… most of the wars we South Africans fought alongside you. Now we just battle it out in rugby and cricket, you guys are our favorite enemies… but after the game- it is so good to share a few beers and joke with one another. . We do have much better beer than you!

      • We will always have something to differ about, but despite our differences understand each other quite well. Maybe thats why there are so many of us living in Australia… Thanks for a beautiful blog! Oh yes, our favourite television program is Australian Masterchef- but we only get to see 2011 series now…

  10. These brave men have such a beautiful spirit – an unconditional zeal to protect and help the others. They leave their own loved ones to protect ours. Must have been a unique, once in a lifetime kind of feeling meeting them, sharing a few smiles and conversations with them. you have narrated your experience so beautifully – I wish I were there to meet them too.
    Hail to these strong men! Much gratitude.

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  13. What a wonderful story. First, because there was not real threat, which is refreshing considering what we see in the news every day. Second, because those young men put your safety before their own, which is what soldiers do for us every day just by virtue of enlisting. We live near Boston, and one of our neighbors is a Navy Seal who ran the Boston Marathon. He was where the bomb exploded but wasn’t hurt (thank God). Without even thinking, he ran toward the mayhem and helped those who had been injured. We’re so blessed to have thousands of people who voluntarily join the military to protect our freedom. –Lucinda

    • Your story of the Navy Seal doesn’t surprise me at all, Lucinda. I think it goes well beyond training. I think some people are just born with a need to serve to and to put the wellbeing of others before themselves. Thanks for sharing 😀 xx

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  15. Thank you so much for this post. Anzac day always makes me so sad at the human cost, and this was a soldier story with a happy ending. I shall be looking forward to your next one.

  16. what an awesome story! i have found that chance meetings seem to be the best. i’ve always admired those who were willing to sacrifice so much so that others may live, be free. i suppose some of those feelings of just wanting to be supported and to know one is not forgotten is truly universal. i happen to volunteer with a group here in the US and i write letters to deployed personnel every week. i also adopted a soldier whom i write to regularly and send care packages. its important to keep that spirit alive and show support for the brave men and women who do so much for us… in whatever country we may live.

    • What a kind soul you are, to reach out to soldiers in such a personal way. I agree that it’s important to show our support, and letters and care packages are a great way to do that. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Bless xx

  17. hi nicole….so nice to read your story with real flavor of home in it for me…a ‘displaced aussie’ living in boston, where we have just had our own dose of ‘bangs’.. of the unfortunate nature
    i have my recipe for ANZAC cookies out waiting to be made …. a little late but now when i do get around to celebrating the courage of the troops, i’ll be able to remember the three guys back from afganistan, the board shorts and the kombi too!
    thank you for your light hearted look at a topic with a serious interior message

  18. Great style of writing I could see the picture you painted clearly when you set the scene, I would like to give all my thanks to those soldiers out there on duty, I always appreciate their efforts. I also too am glad to see the ANZAC spirit is still strong and alive today.

  19. Hi Nicole – I’ve just come back to my blog after some time away for work where I was fortunate to meet some amazing people and I couldn’t help feeling that some of what I write and read is a little frivolous. So thanks so much for this post which really makes me glad to be here and reading about experiences like yours. The ‘amazing’ is around us all the time and this is proof of that. Oh and I hope you keep dancing with your cows :>

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