Over the past month we’ve experienced a dizzying round of restrictions on how we live and the freedoms we normally take for granted. Serious disruptions to the way our businesses and communities operate are causing seismic shifts in our lives and livelihoods. And it’s all over-shadowed by a heightened sense of worry for the health of our loved ones.
It’s understandable that many people feel “thrown off balance”.
Leaders around the world, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have described the Covid-19 outbreak as the biggest challenge since the Second World War.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that we can equate the two scenarios, nor liken personal efforts to those who served, or even understand a fraction of the deprivation and devastation caused by war. Not even close.
However, we undoubtedly approach Anzac Day this year with a different perspective. One not previously known in modern times.
There’s a much more tangible appreciation and understanding of the freedoms gifted to us by those who served. This gives us even more reason to pause and remember.
For many locals, this will be the first year that they won’t attend a public Anzac Day Service and I know that will be difficult.
But I also know this year Australians will be more united than ever on the importance of stopping to remember the bravery, sacrifice, and quiet determination of our veterans, defence force personnel and especially those who paid the ultimate price in service to our nation.
Our remembrances will be private and personal and full of meaning.
And, during this health crisis, perhaps it’s fitting we recollect a special war-time Doctor?
Great Australian war medic Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop is someone whose courage and determination are an inspiration for our uncertain times.
He commanded a war hospital and cared for others, put his own life at risk to stand up for his fellow POWs on the notorious Burma-Thailand Railway, and eventually came home to run a medical practice and dedicate himself to the welfare of returned POWs.
With all he experienced, Sir Edward wisely noted: “I have a conviction that it’s only when you are put at full stretch that you can realise your full potential.”
It’s a reminder of the strength and personal growth to be gained through great challenge.
Perhaps many of us have felt “at full stretch” over the last month or so, or known of someone who has?
While I know these are uncertain times, there is a great deal of inspiration and hope to be found in the stories of wartime sacrifice, mateship and resilience. Now, more than ever before, we can draw on our Anzac traditions to realise our own personal capacity.
I encourage you to take the time to discuss the important lessons of our Defence service history with your family and friends. Both the Australian War Memorial website and DVA Anzac portal have some great resources, including podcasts, posters and snapshots that tell our story.
On Anzac Day, there will also be a nationally televised private ceremony from the War Memorial at 5.30am. And there are many safe local social-media driven commemorations planned in front yards in our suburbs, which I know will be fitting and moving tributes.
Finally, there’s special significance and a wellspring of hope in the fact that this year marks 75 years since Victory in the Pacific and the end of the Second World War.
It was a victory over tyranny and fear. Across Australia, huge crowds gathered in the thousands in cities and towns to celebrate the end of the conflict. There were jubilant scenes of joy and relief.
It’s a reminder that life does go back to normal and that celebrations are restored.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait a long six years to return to the freedoms and way of life that our servicemen and women fought for.
Please stay safe and find comfort in the sense of community we all share this Anzac Day.