#WATWB April – Where Every Person Counts, Anzac Edition

In loving respect for Australians and New Zealanders who served, or are serving, their country and are customarily remembered on Anzac Day, 25 April. Lest we forget.

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Australian soldiers during a quiet moment while out on patrol in Afghanistan in 2011. Photo: Gary Ramage, Image courtesy of The Australian War Memorial.

Welcome to the We Are The World Blogfest #WATWB for April 2018. We have crested the wave and are now in our second year!  Thanks so much to all our writers and followers.

Our valiant co-hosts for this month are  Shilpa GargMichelle Wallace, Mary Giese, Dan Antion and yours truly.

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Gary Ramage admits he’s seen too much death. As a former soldier and one of Australia’s leading news photographers, Ramage has been in and out of war zones for more than 20 years.

From mass graves in Kosovo, to a young girl crying in Somalia, and a soldier and his dog sleeping together on the ground for warmth in Afghanistan, Ramage’s images capture confronting and moving moments in war as he returns again and again to the front line to tell the stories of the men and women who can’t speak for themselves.

“I have seen things that I can’t unsee,” Ramage said. “[But] I can get through by reminding myself of the simple rule I live by: in wars where nothing seems to matter, I can take pictures in which every person counts.”

The Australian War Memorial blog continues:

The collection of images is now being used by the Memorial to help tell the stories of Australian men and women serving in Afghanistan, and the archway picture will be used in commemorative brochures and booklets for Anzac Day.

“I’m very proud of what I achieved over there, but I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did photographically without the diggers on the ground or the soldiers from that unit,” Ramage said.

For Ramage, telling their stories is what it’s all about. “It’s part of our national history, and we need to cover what it is that the soldiers do on our behalf,” he said. “Obviously they volunteer, but they get sent out to these countries to try to make a difference. I believe that we should be telling their stories as part of our military history so that you can go into our Memorial and generations of younger and future Australians can look back and see what it was that these guys did in Afghanistan. It’s very humbling … [and] it’s a huge privilege for me.”

The veteran photographer remains positive in the face of horrors witnessed:

“If I get a bit sad or whatever, I go and do something, and I keep myself occupied.  I have a lot of different hobbies, and that keeps me going without turning to the bottle or drugs or whatever to try and suppress the bad memories and the bad thoughts or whatever… But everybody’s different.

“I don’t dwell on it, because if you dwell on it, it will just eat you up from the inside out. You’ve got to live, so I just put it down to one of life’s experiences and move on to the next chapter. If you let it get on top of you, it will just eat you up.” 

More of the blog on Gary Ramage can be found here.

As we each seek to serve the cause of peace in our own place we also know that every person counts.

For a taste of poetry as we depart, an extract from:

Healing Gila

for The People

The people don’t mention it much.
It goes without saying,
it stays without saying—
that concentration camp
on their reservation.
And they avoid that massive site
as they avoid contamination—
that massive void
punctuated by crusted nails,
punctured pipes, crumbled
failings of foundations . . .
What else is there to say?
This was a lush land once,
graced by a gifted people
gifted with the wisdom
of rivers, seasons, irrigation.
Source: Poetry Foundation. Acknowledgments and full text in link.

Thank you to Belinda Witzenhausen and Damyanti Biswas who called us all together for this Blogfest. It has been over a year and still we are here!

Want to join the WATWB Blogfest? Check out some details here.

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Taken

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Taken

We who are left behind do not know, taste and smell the real horrors of war. It is relayed to us. We see it in those who return. Occasionally, at times like Anzac Day, we are given a rare gift of empathy with those affected by war. We are somehow taken into their experience. We are also taken to a place of raw emotion ourselves.

Taken

(i)

They were taken

By a cause

By ‘the Services’

To the front.

They were taken

And some

Were never given back.

(ii)

Some returned,

Some with spirits broken,

An innocence in them

Taken away.

As we think on them

We are taken

By their courage and sacrifice.

We are taken

By their pain

Their listless, wistful

Half-lived life.

(iii)

At memorial services

We are taken

As the hymns play

And we are taken

Somewhere deep within.

Where we hear:

Whistling shells,

The crack of guns,

And booms of cannons,

And drones of aircraft fly by.

The sound hits upon us

Like a torrent of rushing waters

And we feel as if we

Are taken

Under,

Drowning in a sea of war.

(iv)

At Dawn Services

We are taken

In the silence before the dawn

By the solemn flying over

Of planes in peace time,

Like sentinels,

Guarding our ritual remembrance.

We are taken by their care.

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Simon C.J Falk           25/26 April 2015

Preparing for the Morning Service this Anzac Day by Remembering 2013

Preparing for the Morning Service this Anzac Day by Remembering 2013

We are approaching another Anzac Day here in Australia. A day where we remember.  By way of remembering I was asked to go over what I said at our local gathering two years ago.  What follows is a paste of my words at the Morning Service that follows the march.

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Anzac Day Morning Service 2013

Earlier today we gathered in the dawning light and remembered our brave Anzacs.

Now, approaching the noontide of our day

We have moved on.

Like pilgrims, or like soldiers marching, we come to rest at a further spot.

After our brave Anzacs valiantly served us in what we called the ‘Great War’, we sent some   Again…. later.

In the Second World War, our people excelled once more.

The Kokoda legend began and many people still travel that track.

But the ones who originally blazed that trail

How did their boots fall upon the duckboards?

Or how did they slip in the muddy mire

As the tropical sun and pests beset them?

Did they feel something of the ancient Israelites leaving Egypt

But traveling to a new land with foes nearby.

We hear some stories, but not all.

My mother’s uncle,

A supply soldier in New Guinea, seldom spoke of his tour of duty.

War saw new developments in this conflict

As technology advanced the bombs borne by sea and air,

The guns shattering the silence, the cities and the sanctuaries.

Farming families of Europe

After centuries of sieges

On their grass and in their barns

Again saw their fields and pastures invaded by the machines of war

As they became battlegrounds for territory

resting places of the fallen,

Atolls of asylum for shot down pilots.

Mighty cities near the ocean

We’re massacred in moments of mushroom cloud.

Pens and prisoner of war camps

Housed slave labour for rail lines in tropical paddies in icy tundras.

Back home families continued on coupons,

And mothers at times had to be fathers for their children as well,

Not knowing if the fathers would even come home,

And the state they would arrive in if they did come back to their families.

The home front were consigned to waiting

Yet their anxious wait gave energy to their work

As they kept our shops open, our classrooms filled

And our farms fielded.

As the sun rises higher in the sky

And the dial moves on

More names fill our roll call…

Korea

The Vets of Vietnam

Peacekeepers of East Timor

Aussies still in Afghanistan as we gather here today.

We remember them all.

As our youngsters, and not so youngsters

Take the Kokoda track today

What happens for them?

As the ground speaks its stories to them

Do they burn with revenge

Or fan a resolution

To not repeat the history?

As thousands of tourists pace over the pebbles of Auschwitz-Birkenhau,

Do they rejoice that work today can be free?

Travelling Eurostar trains over the green fields of France

Do we hope those farms will not become forts again?

May the courage of those before us put courage into us,

May their valour teach us to vie for peace instead of conflict.

As we stand here today by our own choice may we be thankful for those who freely chose lay down their lives for others.

May we find peace in our hearts and be ourselves peacemakers

That those who cross our way may know peace,

Even in times of conflict.

And may our families still tormented by past and present war know that we stand with them sharing their sorrow and willing them hope.

At the going down of the sun

We will remember them

And we still hope

That one day there will be a dusk to the devastation

And all will be made new.

Simon C.J. Falk

Anzac Day 2013

Preparing for Dawn this Anzac Day by Remembering 2013

Preparing for Dawn this Anzac Day by Remembering 2013

We are approaching another Anzac Day here in Australia. A day where we remember.  By way of remembering I was asked to go over what I said at our local gathering two years ago.  What follows is a paste of my words at the Dawn Service.

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ANZAC DAY DAWN SERVICE, TEMORA 2013

As we greet the rising sun this day, a new day dawns on us –

a day to remember

And a day to hope.

As shadows clear and shapes appear

We begin to see

And find our way

From our slumber

To what is before us.

We remember as our brave Anzacs woke all those years ago

What shapes did they see

emerging in the shadows of the dawn?

With the grit of the Turkish coast against their brow

How did they see the mission lying ahead of them?

How did their ears encode the echoes

Of gunfire and orders and cries around them?

We will remember them.

But, as another day dawns further from that action

How will we remember?

Gaining more help by second-hand means

Of television or computer screens, film reels,

And pages of text and photographs.

As more days further from the Anzac Cove Landing dawn,

we hope we can faithfully pass on what we have received that others too may remember.

As this new day dawns we remember as light falls

Upon the graves of the fallen

That light, ever older,

Then illumines the graves

Of the those who fell upon the beach

All those years ago.

And also, a light, younger one, that drifts upon the graves of those who fought,

Came home, marched and have since fallen.

And we remember those who stood longer

And whose hearts were fallen upon,

Who experienced something of a dying within

And lived a lesser and wounded life,

Harrowed by the horrors of their experiences.

May their broken hearts be raised up whole again.

And we recall those blessed ones who

Buried the dead, tended the sick and wounded,

Supplied food and clothing, and

Delivered letters to and from the front lines

They too fell

Into line with great and noble service.

As the psalms tell us:

from the rising of the sun to its setting

A perfect offering is made.

In the rising of the sun

May we be mindful

And remember

Those who lived and died

In the hope of a day yet to dawn

Where there would be no more fighting or weeping

But peace at last.

May God’s peace rest upon them

and in our hearts and homes.

Simon C.J. Falk

Anzac Day 2013