OUR SAY: Why Anzac Day is like a religion to many Australians

RIDING HIGH: Last year's Anzac Day march in Orange was one of the best attended in the city's history. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
RIDING HIGH: Last year's Anzac Day march in Orange was one of the best attended in the city's history. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Anzac Day is perhaps one of the most solemn on our calendar.

It’s a day for us all to stop and think – to remember - those who have fought and died for our country in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations around the globe. 

Observed on April 25 every year, it originally honoured the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – thus ANZAC - who fought at Gallipoli during World War I.

What was supposed to be a quick victory for our forces against the Turks, turned into a sustained campaign, lasting eight months.

The Allied forces suffered huge losses, and endured great hardship. More than 8,700 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders lost their lives.

Ultimately, some 60,000 Australians were killed during the first World War, and another 156,000 were “wounded, gassed or taken prisoner”, according to the Australian War Memorial.

A mighty effort when you consider we were a nation of fewer than five million people at the time.

Anzac Day was officially proclaimed in 1916 – a year after the landing – and during the 1920’s it was established as a National Day of Commemoration.

It was not until 1927 that all the states came together to mark the occasion.

In Orange, we have seen commemorations grow in recent years, in a resurgence of spirit.

We have seen more young people marching in remembrance of those who have gone before.

We have seen the streets lined with people paying their respects to those lost and those currently serving – both here and overseas.

It’s hard not to shed a tear, and on Wednesday, at various locations across the city, we will come together once again.

We will rise at dawn – the time of the original landing at Gallipoli – to witness a swelling of Australian pride and to reflect on how we as a nation have grown strong from traditions such as these.

We will stand shoulder to shoulder with veterans, young and old, in a steadfast reminder of the courage that generations of fighting men and women have exhibited in battles beyond belief and, sometimes, beyond comprehension.

Those who have never been to war will seek to understand what it is to serve.

And those who have, will remember the fallen.