24 April 2009

ANZAC DAY: Lest we forget

AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND - Today (25 April - we're a day ahead) down under we mark ANZAC day - - the word ANZAC means Australia and New Zealand Army Corps - - a national holiday honouring servicemembers who fought in Gallipoli, Turkey during the first World War.

One thing that I have noticed living home in Australia is that on ANZAC day every veteran wears their military medals no matter what they are doing on that day. You see medal wearing veterans in the grocery store, walking down the street, at a coffee shop, the local pub, at sporting events - they are all over the place. At ANZAC celebrations and in ordinary places across the nation of Australia you will see youth stopping veterans to ask them about their service. Traditionally on ANZAC day a veteran wears his or her medals on the left side whilst an immediate family member of a deceased veteran will where their deceased relative's medals on the right side.

Back in my other home of the United States there is no such large practice of veterans or family members wearing their medals with the exception of ceremonies or parades. In 2006 former Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson issued a press release urging all U.S. veterans to wear their medals on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Nicholson's press release can be found here.

The former VA secetary told American Forces Press Service that he was struck to see all the veterans and surving family members wearing their medals on a 2005 visit to Sydney during ANZAC ceremonies. As an American-Australian I have to agree with Nicholson's observations that seeing a veteran with their medals on those special days brings it home to all. It focuses public pride and gives veterans a chance to share their personal histories of service with fellow mates, citizens and with today's youth.

So this Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veteran's Day dust off your medals, don them with pride, share your stories with today's youth and raise your glass high to toast, honour and remember a fallen shipmate, soldier, Marine, airman or guardsman. Information on America's Veterans Pride Initiative can be found here.

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