Aviators honor fallen Soldiers on ANZAC
Col. Douglas Gabram, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence deputy commander, and Col. Anton Leshinskas, senior Australian representative, lay a wreath down at the 135th Assault Helicopter Company Memorial in Veterans Park April 25 at a dawn service.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 2, 2013) -- A community of military Aviators from all over the world gathered April 25 at Veterans Park to celebrate Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, which is celebrated much like the American Memorial and Veterans' Days.

The day is celebrated on Fort Rucker with a gunfire breakfast, a dawn service, ANZAC biscuits and a game of two up, according to Australian Army Lt. Col. Stephen Jobson, CSC, Fort Rucker Australian Army Aviation Liaison officer and master of the ceremony.

"This day is celebrated all over the world from Egypt to England, from New Zealand to North America," he said as he thanked the many officers from Germany to Canada for attending the ceremony.

ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I in 1915. It honors the ANZAC members who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for Australia and New Zealand, according to Jobson.

"During the 1920s, Anzac Day became established as a National Day of Commemoration for the 60,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders who died during the war," he said.

More than 8,500 Australians and New Zealanders were killed in the Gallipoli campaign and more than 19,000 were wounded, he continued.

"The ANZAC traditions and the ideals of courage, endurance and mateship are still relevant today. We meet at this bleak hour to honor the heroism, tenacity and resilience of that group of young men whose units were sent to Gallipoli," he said.

Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the original landing, with returned Soldiers seeking the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn, according to Jobson.

"With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of ANZAC Day remembrance during the 1920s. Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to 'stand-to' and two minutes of silence would follow. At the start of this time a lone bugler plays The Last Post and then concluded the service with Reveille," he said.

Another ANZAC Day tradition is the gunfire breakfast, which occurs before many dawn services down under.

"It symbolizes the historical last meal that troops enjoyed before going into battle. It was normally held during the hours of darkness and was often cold fare so that cooking fires did not give away their position," continued Jobson.

It is also customary to wear rosemary, according to Jobson's wife, Tania, which was one of the only herbs to grow on the battlefield.

"The [Soldiers] who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula created a legend," said Jobson. "[Their actions] added the word 'ANZAC' to our vocabulary and created the notion of the ANZAC spirit."

Children called out the names of fallen Australian Soldiers during the calling of the honor roll, and hymns were sung and poems read during the ceremony to honor the dead.

The ceremony was held by the 135th Assault Helicopter Company Memorial at Veterans Park. This Memorial is the only one in Alabama with the names of fallen Australian Servicemen listed alongside their fallen U.S. Allies.

"There is great significance in the 2013 Fort Rucker ANZAC Day commemorations taking place at the 135th Assault Helicopter Company Memorial. It is an honor and a privilege to commemorate ANZAC Day [here] where five Australians died as a result of service with the 135th Assault Helicopter Company," said the master of ceremonies.

ANZAC Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand, and is a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same Remembrance Day, but making reference to both countries in its name, added Jobson.

After the wreaths were laid and the benediction read, the service came to a close and people gathered in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum to continue the celebration with a full breakfast and a game of two-up, a traditional Australian gambling game that was widely played by the Soldiers that landed on Gallipoli, according to the liaison officer.

Page last updated Thu May 2nd, 2013 at 00:00