Today we remember. We remember every New Zealand life cut off in the course of battle through time and space. We remember the sorrow, and the loss, of their families.
We remember, too, those who returned. Those who picked up the pieces of a shattered tranquility and began to rebuild. Those who came back to a culture sometimes grateful, sometimes hateful, of the scars they bore. We remember that life is far from perfect, but that what we do have was bought at the highest price.
We remember, especially, Gallipoli and the 2779 New Zealanders who never returned from their long voyage over the seas. We remember the 8500 Australians who fell next to them, the 87,000 Turks who never returned home, and the 44,000 French and British soldiers for whom Gallipoli became a final resting place 100 years ago.
We remember the horror of eight months in trenches our Kiwi soldiers endured; the fear, the sorrow and the sacrifice. Yes, we remember the sacrifice, because that’s what dying in battle boils down to. It boils down to a choice between duty, or freedom, or country – and life. It boils down to a choice between yourself, or others. Today we remember those who chose to give up their lives for others – sometimes us, sometimes their fellow soldiers, sometimes the poor, oppressed and downtrodden whom they never even knew.
Today we remember that freedom, justice and goodness are expensive luxuries, not the inevitable consequence of the passage of time. We remember that enjoying them means fighting for them, and dying for them. We remember those who knew full well the cost, and were willing to pay it anyway.
There are, of course, those who label war – all war – meaningless. And I suppose it is. It’s meaningless if you believe justice is meaningless, or freedom, or your culture and heritage.
It is meaningless if you have never heard the smatter of machine gun fire overlaid on background noise, have never had a gun pointed at you, or have never seen children slaughtered.
It is meaningless if you have never watched your family be beaten or killed by the drugged armies of despotic leaders, watched as corrupt laws swept through your parliament, or had to fight just to do business or travel to the next town.
Indeed, war is meaningless until it is your freedom, your right to justice, or your life that is being demanded of you. That’s when you suddenly realise that there are worse fates, that some things are worth dying for. Thankfully, we have men and women willing to give their lives for us – and for others – when evil insists on having its way with the world.
That is why we stop and remember all New Zealand soldiers who has given their life in war today. We remember their fight, their service and we remember their sacrifice. We remember the price of peace, those who bought it for us, and we are thankful.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz