ANZAC Day brings Soldiers and Families together
May 3, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 3, 2012) -- Fort Rucker seemed like a post with no borders as Soldiers and Families from different parts of the world gathered at Veterans Park to honor the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during the 2012 ANZAC Day Dawn Service April 25.
ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand as a national day of remembrance to honor the members of the ANZACs who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I, according to Lt. Col. Stephen Jobson, Australian Army liaison officer.
The celebration began at 5 a.m. with a traditional gunfire breakfast, which occurs before the dawn service to symbolize the historic last meal that troops enjoyed before going into battle, said the liaison officer.
"ANZAC Day is basically our national Memorial Day, " said Australian native Capt. Tye Masterson, B Company, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment. "It signifies the landing of our troops in Gallipoli in 1915. Since it was a dawn attack, each year we have a dawn service -- to signify when the troops attacked."
Staying true to tradition, the service was preceded by coffee with a shot of rum and an ANZAC biscuit, which was available to those in attendance.
"I can assure you that drinking alcohol [early in the morning] is not commonplace for Australians," said Jobson, "but on ANZAC day -- this one day of the year -- it's perfectly acceptable."
The service continued as people gathered around the 135th Assault Helicopter Company Memorial, which included the names of five Australian Soldiers who share their place among the fallen American Soldiers, according to the liaison officer.
A wreath and flowers were laid at the memorial to honor those Soldiers followed by the Calling of the Honor Roll, during which the names on the memorial were read out loud by Australian children.
"The [Soldiers] who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula created a legend," said Jobson. "[Their actions] added the word 'ANZAC' to [the Australian and New Zealand] vocabulary and created the notion of the ANZAC spirit."
That spirit seemed to rub off on past and present American Soldiers like Randy Dunaway, retired military, who served with Australians in his unit during the Vietnam War and created lasting friendships with not only the Soldiers, but their Families as well.
"I feel like we bonded so closely with the Australians that we served with, and we visit back and forth with them all the time," he said. "We've been close friends ever since we served together."
Belinda Masterson, Australian native and Army spouse, came with her husband, Capt. Masterson, to honor the fallen Soldiers of not only those lost at the Battle of Gallipoli, but throughout all conflicts.
"It's important to remember all of the sacrifices that [Soldiers] go through -- not only in the past, but those that are on the front lines today as well," she said. "It's really important for me to support them because I know what they've done and I can see how it affects people. A lot of people that aren't in a military Family might not see that and it's really important to bring recognition for their sacrifice."
The celebration also served as a learning experience for American Soldier CW3 Kristi Hicky, B Co. 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt., by broadening her views of what other countries and cultures have accomplished and take pride in.
"I have two Australian instructor pilots in my platoon and I wanted to see what it was like for their ANZAC Day," she said. "When [international Soldiers] come here they celebrate our Thanksgiving and 4th of July celebrations -- they're huge deals for us. It's wonderful for me to be able to celebrate something for them."
After the wreaths were laid and the names were read, the commemorative service came to a close and people gathered in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum to continue the celebration with a full breakfast followed by 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.
The celebration ended as the games came to a close and Jobson thanked all of those in attendance for the support they showed.
"The people of the United States not only share our values of freedom, liberty and respect for human rights, but are our mates," he said. "In present conflicts and in the future when we're needed, we'll be there for [The U.S.] and we won't let [them] down."