For a long time, our war heroes were older.
They’d march on ANZAC Day in dusted-off jackets, with rows of medals clanking. Year after year.
Our veterans would share the same steely gaze. And a rum toddy as the sun came up.
Over time, crowds grew. Finally, as a nation, we got it. Parents and their kids lined the streets. We wanted to show this wonderful bunch what they meant to us.
Their numbers are dwindling, of course. It makes every year, extra special.
I wish Dad had been around to see the change. Things were so different when he was trying to adjust back to normal life, all those years ago. When people didn’t care as much.
He would have been amazed to see the flags waving. And all those mini-medals, worn by sons and daughters. Including his grand-daughters. Girls he never got to meet.
Something else would surprise him. The emergence of our young heroes. The men and women fighting for us today.
It’s only recently, that ANZAC Day has taken on a new look. Slowly, but surely. A reflection of a changing world.
We’ve been fighting another war for years now. Not that everyone understood that in the early days. So different from what Dad experienced. Against an insidious enemy, often hidden, in a far away land.
Those involved in these battles are not old men, carefully placed in the back of jeeps. Men we will adore, until the last one takes the final salute, to re-join his brave mates.
These modern soldiers have families just like us. They follow the footy on their i-phones. They’re on Facebook.
For a while, it seemed some were unsure of their place on ANZAC Day. They worship the men and women who went before them.
Sure, they’d be there for the dawn service, and the march, but more to help the veterans of battles done. They would wear their medals with pride, but clap loudest for others.
In the last few years, the mood has shifted. Possibly because there’s so many of them, coming back from those awful, dusty fields.
They see the public’s reaction to the likes of Ben Roberts-Smith and Mark Donaldson. Heroes, in every sense of the word. As brave as anyone we’ve produced.
I hope this new breed understands how proud we are of them. For their courage. And their sacrifices. Just like their fathers and grandfathers.
This year, save a cheer for the young heroes. After the march, shake one by the hand. Get your mum to give someone a hug. Let them know what we think of them.
Dad struggled so much with what he was asked to do. For years, he chose not to think about it.
If he was able to have a beer with me now, I think he’d see things differently. He would understand, that all those who serve deserve our ever-lasting gratitude.
The diggers of today are following our heroes of yesterday. And we’re proud of every single one of them.