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ANZAC Day 2018: Washington National Cathedral

ANZAC Day 2018

The Hon Joe Hockey
Australian Ambassador to the United States

Washington National Cathedral
Washington, DC – 25 April 2018

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Thank you for your service.

It’s a terrific American term that is spontaneously offered in a heartfelt way to retired and current service men and women, all over the country.

So I begin by saying to all of you that have served, ….thank you for  your service.

It is so fitting that we have come together today in this grand House of God, in this most sacred National Cathedral, to give thanks, and to acknowledge the sanctity of the lives of those who have fought, and those who have died, for Australia and New Zealand throughout our histories. 

We often think to ourselves we would give our lives a hundred times over for our children, and our family.

But isn’t it the ultimate act of selflessness to give your life for someone you have never met?

It was the selfless sacrifice by Jesus Christ more than two thousand years ago that continues to inspire billions of people to come together in churches like this all over the world.

And it is the ultimate act of sacrifice made by more than 130,000 Australians and New Zealanders in war - all wars - that brings us here today. 

Just as Jesus Christ was a volunteer, so too were the ANZAC’s 100 years ago.

From Toowoomba to Timaru, from the Bay of Islands to Bathurst and beyond, young men and women joined the fight for God, King and country.

Well…… in the true ANZAC spirit, maybe not always for the King!

Frank Parker, a Private in the 5th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Forces, when reflecting on why he signed up to fight in World War One said later in life: 

“King and country... who was the king? What was his name? No! Adventure, adventure, that's all I'd say…”

The joy and romance – or indeed adventure! - soon evaporated as the awful reality of modern warfare, with its sophisticated and increasingly deadly guns, tanks and armaments, sunk into the collective consciousness. 

In sending a massive volunteer force of over 331,000 men to Europe and the Middle East, Australia, like New Zealand, initially sent “…the fittest, strongest and most enthusiastic”. But as casualties mounted, things changed. 

By the end of the war, the minimum requirement for recruitment height was reduced to 5 feet and the maximum recruitment age was increased to 50 years.
By that time, it was “total war.”

By 1918 New Zealand had sent nearly 10 %  of all its citizens to war. In America today that is the equivalent of a fighting force of 32 million men and women.  

Nearly 60% of the kiwi soldiers were killed or injured. 

For Australia, 65% of our soldiers were killed or injured.

It was,is and forever will be, a horror story.

The generals and political leaders got it wrong. They used 19th century military tactics against 20th century military hardware. 

The price paid by those fighting, and their families, communities and countries, was incredibly high.

That’s why we will never forget.
If a century later, historians are still trying to work out what the First World War was all about then how did it feel in those muddy trenches on the western front, or on the hostile waves of the open oceans? How did it feel for our airmen as they jumped into their flying machines? How did it feel for the nurses who would be constantly called on to save the broken bodies of our soldiers?
So as the war dragged on men and women found some comfort in fighting for their personal values and beliefs In serving their country they were fighting to protect their way of life. They fought for their families and communities, and they were motivated by their fond memories of home.

And all of those feelings were often best represented by the Aussies and Kiwis that were beside you, in the trenches, in that foreign and far off land. 

The camaraderie became something special. It really put meaning into Mateship…a special bond between soldiers no matter where they came from in Australia or New Zealand. 

And it was their way of coping… they fought for each other. They fought for their mates.

100 years later we still fight for our mates.

Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith completed 5 tours of duty in Afghanistan where he won Australia’s highest decoration, a Victoria Cross medal for bravery. 

In describing the 2010 Taliban raid for which he won his Victoria Cross, Roberts-Smith said:

“I wasn’t going to sit there and do nothing and watch my mates die. I’d rather that be me, than to go home and face their families if they died.” 

Roberts-Smith is part of the latest generation of ANZACs who display great heroism, courage, endurance, and sacrifice. 

As our Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove – a former head of Australia’s defence forces – has said: 
“…mateship was the enduring gift of the first ANZACs. They wore mateship as their armour during battle.”

Well they still do.

The true gravity of war is no longer a mystery. World War 1 took the romanticism out of war. 

But it helped us to reveal our character.

Australians tend to look at Gallipoli, the ill-fated invasion of a peninsula in Turkey 103 years ago today, as a moment when we revealed ourselves as our own nation.
But what Gallipoli revealed was our character.

It gave definition and meaning to the term “Mateship”.

Of standing by your buddy when they are down. Never leaving their side even at the darkest of hours or in the depths of utter despair, unwavering, loyal, true.

It also means we are honest with each other…..sometimes it reveals our larrikin spirit.

In the heat of battle on the Western Front in August 1918, Gunner J.R. Armitage wrote in his diary:

“I got a shell splinter through my tin hat - fortunately it wasn’t on my head at the time. I was very annoyed, but my mate Snow, he couldn’t see what I was upset about. Hesaid the hat had never contained anything of value.”

100 years ago the great war was coming to an end. It was meant to be the war to end all wars.

Obviously it wasn’t.

Lying in his grave, just over there, is the body of the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. 
More than any other person, President Wilson brought an end to World War I. He mobilized 4 million Americans and sent an army of 1 million to Europe to fight side by side with the ANZACs and the Allies.

At a time of need, in our darkest hours, the American doughboys turned up to fight alongside the ANZACs.

They shared our values, they shared our courage, they made huge sacrifices, and ultimately they earned the right to be called our mates.

100 years later we are still fighting side by side with our mates. In Afghanistan,Iraq and in the never ending fight against terrorism.

So to all the men and women that have served, and to those who respond to the future call of duty, I say not only thank you for your service…….

….I say thank you for showing the world what it means to be a “mate”.