As ANZAC day looms I always think of my military past. For many years it was 100% of my life, nearly 18 years serving as a Regular Army Officer and now after a 6 year gap, again in the Reserves. When I first left the Army I immersed myself in business to make up the skill gap that I felt I had as a result of so much time in one organisation. Now more and more I fall back on the extra ordinary grounding I got in the Army and the skills it taught me. Sure I got a University education as well (BCom at Canterbury University) but those basic skills are the valuable ones. Things like accepting responsibility, leading, communicating, systems for administration, logistics. How to plan and think through problems. People skills, overseas experience, overcoming fear, physical fitness and the list goes on.
ANZAC day for me is a time of remembrance. It is a time to think back on experiences, people, sacrifice and those who put country first. Those who didn’t make it home or were killed serving their country come to mind. The big campaigns which cost many faceless New Zealanders their lives and then more recently those killed in combat, accidents or in training that have a much more personal angle given that we knew them and had served together.
Many of my good friends still serve in the Army and some are in harms way right now. They hold senior roles of course nowadays, but in the back of your mind you get that knot in your guts whenever there is a bad news headline in Afghanistan or some other strange place they may be serving. Many of my mates are now out of the Army and flung far around the country and indeed the world in roles ranging from Private security to private and big business. Most have been very successful in what they have pursued and of course fall back on many of those skills taught in the military.
I wanted to define what ANZAC day meant to me and whilst the dawn parade is certainly a focal point, I find myself looking at those around me who have not served. I look at their reaction and I wonder why they attend and what it must mean to them given they have not experienced the tight camaraderie the Army offers or the feeling of being in a tight combat team. I don’t understand how they view the day and the words said at services across the country.
No, ANZAC day is not really that big for me. Personally it happens many times a year when I share time with good mates who I have served with. The ANZAC experience for me is just as much about playing a good army mate at squash as it is about a dawn parade. To be able to tell yarns, swear (one of the pleasures in life) and spend time is just as important. Having a coffee, phone calls, laughing, staying in touch are all pleasures. I love the way you can go months and years and then just touch base and not much has changed.
Last weekend a mate called on me who I had not seen for perhaps 10 years and we spent a couple of hours talking. Those are friendships that endure, like old school mates they are part of my community. They know me, my strengths, my weaknesses and we have common experience.
That is a gift the Army has given me for the rest of my life. Enduring friendships……now that is just absolute gold!