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Australia, New Zealand Mark 99th ANZAC Day Observance

by Misato Nakayama

“In Flanders fields, the poppies blow… between the crosses, row on row. That mark our place; and in the sky, the larks still bravely singing fly… scarce heard amid the guns below.”

So begins the famous poem by Canadian soldier John McCrae, who describes the contrast of beautiful poppies on a desolate Belgian battlefield during World War I.

Thanks to McCrae’s poem, composed on May 3, 1915, the poppy became deeply etched in the public consciousness as an enduring symbol of the First World War.

Australian and New Zealand flag bearers march at the ANZAC Day dawn service held April 25 at Washington’s Korean War Memorial. Photos: Embassy of New Zealand

On April 25, veterans from both Australia and New Zealand gathered at 5:45 a.m. for a dawn service at the Korean Veterans War Memorial. Later that morning, more than 500 people wearing poppies gathered at Washington National Cathedral for a church service.

Both events marked the local observance of ANZAC Day, a unique holiday celebrated by both countries.

“Our most sacred and solemn day,” said Mike Moore, New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States, describing the binational occasion named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Originally meant to honor those who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, ANZAC Day commemorates the thousands of men and women in uniform from both countries “who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations,” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.” It is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn Islands and Tonga.

Hundreds of dignitaries, veterans and others from Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and the United States attend the ANZAC Day dawn service April 25 at Washington’s Korean War Memorial.

This year’s observance marked 99 years since April 25, 1915 — the day Allied troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula to fight the Ottoman Empire, which was aligned with Germany. The battle dragged on for eight months, leaving more than 35,000 soldiers dead, including 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand.

Even though the men failed to capture the Ottoman capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul), their bravery has instilled generations of Australians and New Zealanders with pride and patriotism.

“ANZAC Day is a time we think of family and we recognize the strain placed on the families of our service people; their partners and children who manage for long, lonely, anxious periods of time without their loved ones,” said Moore, who also quoted Lord Tennyson’s immortal words: “Into the valley of death rode the 600. Theirs is not to reason why. Theirs is but to do or die.”

Mike Moore, New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States, speaks at the ANZAC Day dawn service April 25 at Washington’s Korean War Memorial.

Moore and his wife, Yvonne, singled out 94-year-old Wing Commander Thomas Welch Horton at a New Zealand Embassy reception following the church service.

"He flew Pathfinder Mosquitos and light Bombers over Europe and crashed into the sea off Gibraltar. He flew 111 missions,” said Yvonne. “Tom returned to New Zealand in 1946 but within months of his return was offered a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force which he accepted, and served over 20 years with the RAF. He came to the Pentagon with NATO in the 1960s and ended up staying in Virginia and raising a family there. What an amazing man — 94, with stories to tell forever.”

Lt. Col. Duncan Roy (left), escorts Mike Moore, New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States (right), following Moore’s ANZAC Day speech April 25 at Washington National Cathedral.

Despite the passage of time, ANZAC Day has apparently not lost its relevance.

“The crowds and services are getting bigger and bigger every year,” said Lt. Col. Duncan Roy of the New Zealand Embassy. “New generations and children are looking at what their grandfathers and grandmothers have done. They are thankful for what their lives are now and standing, living in honor.”

“Rather than this day retreating into the fog and mist of history, it is being recognized on a larger scale with each generation,” added Moore, as the didgeridoo — an aborigine brass instrument — sounded solemnly in the background. “We know we do not stand in the shadow of earlier generations but on their shoulders, the better to see the promised land.”

Misato Nakayama is an editorial assistant at The Washington Diplomat.




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