ANZAC Day: It’s easy to forget

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Tomorrow being ANZAC Day, many Australians will bow their heads and think of those who died serving their countries. There’ll be poppies respectfully pinned to lapels, tasteful wreaths laid at shrines, and speeches culminating with those iconic words, “Lest we forget.”  Yet, as long as we think of the fallen as a depersonalised collective, we will indeed forget. And rather than ANZAC Day being one of reflection, it’ll just signal the start of a long weekend, drink specials and another $5 cause-wristband.

It may be confronting, but if we think of the fallen as an individual, the toils of war suddenly seem closer. Who is this individual? What is his/her name? Is he right or left-handed? Can he whistle? Does he snore? Is he a prankster or a straight arrow?

A few years ago in the States, an old joke was re-circulated around Memorial Day. Any other time, and it would have elicited a chuckle, but on this day, it was a reminder that the men and women that serve are more that just uniforms. There are inside jokes and friendly rivalries.

There was a nearly blind, elderly mother who had three sons. Each son wanted to prove that he was best son a mother could have, so for her birthday they each brought a special gift.

Son #1 who attended The Air Force Academy brought her the Air Force’s mascot, the falcon. The gift could be her eyes and ears and could look out for her. This would surely be the best any of them could offer.

Son #2 who attended West Point (US Military Academy) brought her Spartacus, a (pack) mule, one of three Army mascots. Spartacus could be her method of transportation since she could no longer drive. This mascot from the only real academy would surely be the best any of them could offer. 

Son #3 who attended the Naval Academy knew he had to do something even better so he brought her the Navy’s mascot, the goat. What a privilege, he thought, for his mother to own the goat of the mighty Naval Academy. She’d be the envy of all military mothers around the world. Not only was this the famous Navy goat, but Son #3 also paid to have it learn to speak and then memorise all the works of Shakespear. What a gift this would be! His mother loved hearing Shakespear’s sonnets. This would surely be the best gift ever.

A few days after the gifts were delivered, the elderly woman had to do something. She couldn’t handle all these mascot anymore. “What were those boys thinking”, she thought to herself. 

She went to the Air Force son and said, “Son, the falcon is wonderful but I don’t want to deprive the other Zoomies from their mascot. Besides”, she fibbed, “I just bought a new pair of glasses and can see quite well now. Thanks anyway, but please take him.”

She then went to the West Point son and said, “Son, the mule is wonderful, but I don’t want to deprive the only real military academy of one of its mascots. Besides,” she fibbed, “since I got new glasses, I’ve gotten my driver’s license and just bought a new Mercedes. Thanks anyway, but please take him back.”

She then went to the Naval Academy son and said, “Son, thank you so very much! That lamb was delicious!”

If you didn’t quite get that joke, you wouldn’t be alone. But if you did get it and had quite a chuckle, then you understand the camaraderie that exists amongst soldiers. And as long as that bond exists, the fallen will never be forgotten.

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