Today is ANZAC day and it is one of the most revered national holidays of Australia and New Zealand. It originated from the First World War and growing up in Australia, I had learnt about its history in school. However, it wasn't until many years later would I realise its importance to my father.
Dad would go to the Dawn Service on ANZAC Day each year and then watch the marching parade afterwards. In a sea of spectators, you would wonder why this Asian man standing in their midst would look so solemn. He didn't fit the age bracket of a WWI veteran nor was he in any military outfit. But you see, ANZAC day not only honours those who fought in WWI but also "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served" in war.
My father fought in the Vietnam War but he never once uttered to us children a word about what he went through. He was only 17 when he enlisted and was fighting with the South Vietnamese Forces in the thick of the jungles. 1965 would have been the year he enlisted and though the war officially ended in 1975, I would not be able to tell you how many months or years he served.
It wasn't until after about 5 years in Australia did my dad gravitate towards the ANZAC parades. We grew up joining him on a few occasions to watch the services and then only as adults did we understand the ceremony's significance to him. How many fellow soldiers did he lose during the Vietnam War? How much suffering had he seen? How many people may he have killed? Such thoughts are deeply personal and I think on this one day of the year, my father allowed himself to remember.
ANZAC Day's message has always been one to never forget. Never to forget those who have fallen nor to forget the heavy toll of war.