Monday, April 26, 2010

Remembering Woodstock

If you look hard enough as you drive south of Noosa, you'll see the odd rusty sign beside the road that will warn of "unexploded shells" in the vicinity. The signs were once prevalent on the Sunshine Coast as much of it was used for artillery practice during the Second World War.
On days like yesterday, you see these old guys - blokes like Hughie's brother. They always have neatly clipped moustaches. It's like a secret handshake - a visual cue, a sign. They were once flyboys. Former members of the airforce. They might have flown Liberator bombers over Germany 60 years ago or Canberra bombers over Khe Sanh but the moustache is a constant. Along with former soldiers and sailors remembering their mates as they march to memorial sites around the country like they did yesterday on the Sunshine Coast.
April 25 in New Zealand and Australia is ANZAC Day - named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. and the anniversary of our first major military action at Gallipoli in Turkey during the First World War almost a 100 years ago - a military disaster where over 10000 Aussie and Kiwi ANZAC's perished during the 8 month campaign.

On ANZAC Day we remember and give thanks to those countless men and women who perished while defending our freedom and way of life. We remember their courage, their sacrifices. 
We remember young Aussies conscripted via "the draft" often returning with undiagnosed and unsupported emotional and physical debilitation and sometimes outright rejection. We remember their families who witnessed and supported their post-war trauma while our "leaders" forgot them.
"And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And nighttime's just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what's this rash that comes and goes
Can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen"
from I Was Only 19 by Red Gum

We remember the women who worked on the home front supporting the various war efforts - women like Nana Brine, who talked story yesterday about times last century when she would dance with American soldiers at the Red Cross Centre in Brisbane while General Macarthur mapped out his Pacific Campaign a block or two away. 

We remember the "locals" and the Second World War Coastwatchers in remote places like the Soloman Islands and New Guinea who saved the lives of many Aussies (and a few Yankees like John Kennedy and his PT boat crew).
And we give thanks to all these faceless and forgotten souls whose deeds enable us to slide the brine on whatever craft we want, wherever we want, with whomever we want.

Today we also remember the wonderful deeds of our American allies in places like Woodstock, the little Aussie town on the road from Townsville to Charters Towers. Not a flower or hippie in sight, but certainly the scene of action during the Battle of the Coral Sea when our Yankee friends came across the Pacific to our aid, sending assorted aircraft carriers, bombers, fighters and troops to support our defence. In Woodstock, they worked 24 hours around the clock to build three runways for American B26 bombers, as well as Kittyhawk and Lightning fighters which played a vital role in the Pacific during this time.
But it's all summed summed up powerfully with three simple words that you'll see inscribed on roadside memorials from Woodstock to Tewantin - "Lest we forget"

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