Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

News Release
    

Country Fire Authority torchbearers stand motionless around the cenotaph. Their ‘eternal’ flames illuminate Cochrane Park, guiding hundreds of spectators to the gathering place for Koo Wee Rup’s 2018 ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

It is 5.45 am, just before sunrise, on 25 April, a public holiday for Australians and New Zealanders. ANZAC Day is a commemoration of the sacrifice of soldiers who lost their lives in war—especially at Gallipoli during World War I—so that civilians might enjoy what soldiers did not: peace and plenty.

Home to the Koo Wee Rup and District War Memorial, 63 km southeast of Melbourne, Koo Wee Rup is a coastal town. It derives its name from the Aboriginal language of the Bunorong People and signifies an abundance of blackfish swimming.

But it is the smell of torches not sea air that permeates the atmosphere as people wait reverently for the service to begin. Meanwhile, Gordon-Clan-kilt-clad Australian Jason Finn plays Amazing Grace on his grandfather’s bagpipes. Jason’s grandfather, David Milne from Toowoomba, taught Jason to play the pipes when he was 14 years old. Now a father of 5 children and a member of Dandenong Ward (congregation) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jason has played at numerous ANZAC Day ceremonies and in Koo Wee Rup for the past 10 years. Later he comments that his grandfather obviously came back from the war, but his great uncles did not. Beside him stands Māori Bishop Kurtland White of Pakenham Ward, who offered a prayer at last year’s Koo Wee Rup ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

This year’s prayer is for those who bear the physical and mental scars of military service. It is a plea for comfort and support to their widows, and for “the mateship, courage and compassion that prevent us from glorifying the tragedy of war.” It expresses an entreaty for all to “dedicate ourselves to the cause of justice and peace, and to make this world a better place.”

Then, as the Ode is pronounced, listeners mentally trace the familiar words from For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon:

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them."

Lest we forget.

Representatives from schools, community organisations and the Church slowly file towards the war memorial and lay floral wreaths and single poppies at the foot of the cenotaph, in gratitude for the fallen.

Australian flags flutter gently at half mast as the bugler plays the Last Post. After a minute’s silence, the bugler plays the Reveille.

A Māori choir from the Church stands about 50 members strong and includes missionaries, youth and Young Single Adults from various local wards, singing the New Zealand national anthem in Māori and in English.

"E Ihowa Atua

O ngā iwi mātou rā,

Āta whakarongo na;

Me aroha noa.

Kia hua ko te pai;

Kia tau tō atawhai;

Manaakitia mai

Aotearoa."

"God of nations at thy feet,

In the bonds of love we meet.

Hear our voices, we entreat,

God defend our free land.

Guard Pacific’s triple star

From the shafts of strife and war,

Make her praises heard afar;

God defend New Zealand."

After the Australian national anthem, the Māori choir male members perform a bellicose haka, much to the delight of onlookers who crowd round to take photos. Haka were originally performed by Māori warriors, to intimidate their opponents; however, haka are also performed to celebrate special occasions and welcome distinguished guests.

Māori representatives of the Church have participated in the Koo Wee Rup Dawn Service for the past 3 or 4 years. Pakenham Ward (congregation) member, Māori choir singer, and mother of four, Mia Skipwith, comments that her great-great uncles died in the Great Wars, in Gallipoli and France.

ANZAC Day reminds her “of all the mothers and fathers who lost children—all the people who didn’t get to mourn their dead or hold a tangi (Māori 3-day funeral) for them.”

Her son, Taiki, who was born in Japan on ANZAC Day, is a constant reminder to her of her ancestors’ sacrifice. For Mia and others, ANZAC Day is truly a family celebration. With her in the choir are her husband, Aaron Skipwith, their daughter, Yuri, and Aaron’s sister, Rangi, also of Pakenham Ward, Gippsland Stake, over which Pres. Graham Smith presides.

Koo Wee Rup ANZAC Day Dawn Service and other such remembrance ceremonies remind us of the similarities between soldiers’ sacrifices and the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the great war between good and evil:

John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

With recent Easter events still fresh in our minds, we continue celebrating: Christ’s resurrection, which affords us the hope that all will be resurrected, including infinite fallen soldiers; and His atonement which, to those wounded by the loss of beloved family members in war, can bring deep healing, inner peace and hope for the future.

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