By Franklin Fisher (Benning)April 26, 2019
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Australian troops assigned to Fort Benning marked ANZAC Day -- their country's equivalent of America's Memorial Day -- with a dawn ceremony at the National Infantry Museum outside Fort Benning April 25.
The Australian Army maintains a small contingent of Soldiers at Fort Benning who serve as instructors at the post's U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, which includes the U.S. Army's Infantry and Armor schools.
ANZAC Day is observed annually in Australia and New Zealand to remember the nation's war dead and honor military service. The term ANZAC refers to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which is best known for its valor and tenacity during the bloody World War I campaign at Gallipoli against Turkish forces. The campaign began with the ANZACs going ashore in predawn darkness on April 25, 1915.
Besides members of the Australian Contingent, the observance, at the National Infantry Museum just outside Fort Benning, was attended by members of the Fort Benning community, including Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, MCoE's commanding general.
The observance began at 6 a.m. in predawn darkness on the Museum's parade ground with a "gunfire breakfast" at which those attending were served coffee with rum, and "ANZAC biscuits." The biscuits commemorate those that Australian families sent the troops during the Gallipoli campaign. Rum was sometimes added to coffee to fortify troops for the fighting ahead.
Dawn is chosen for the service to commemorate the fact that the ANZAC landing went forward before dawn. After the breakfast the group was led by a bagpiper for a slow, four-minute walk to the Museum's 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial, where the Dawn Service was held.
"We come here to commemorate one of the most significant events in the national calendar," the Australian Contingent's liaison officer to McoE, Lt. Col. Stuart A. Purves, said in keynote remarks during the service.
"On this day 104 years Ago, Soldiers of the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, known as the ANZACS, landed as part of a British Commonwealth and French force, whose mission was to capture the peninsula," Purves said.
The Allied campaign at Gallipoli "was ultimately unsuccessful," he noted, and ended with withdrawal of the assault force from the peninsula "some nine months later, against a fiercely resistant foe."
Nevertheless, he said, ANZAC Day honors the courage and fighting qualities demonstrated during the campaign.
"The term ANZAC, has become more than its origin…" said Purves. "The term ANZAC has transcended the physical meaning to become a spirit, an inspiration that embodies the qualities of courage, discipline, sacrifice, self-reliance, and, in Australian terms, 'mateship' and 'a fair go.'" The term "fair go" can refer to fairness, as in the phrase "a fair shake."
"These days, we don't glorify war," said Purves. "All we ask is the simple recognition of the sacrifice, commitment and unselfish devotion of those men and women who served so valiantly for their country and what they believed in, so much so that many knowingly went to their deaths, not just at Gallipoli" but in subsequent wars and military actions in which Australian and New Zealand forces have served.
That service has included World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, among other conflicts and missions.
"So we stand here today along with thousands of others around the world to honor great men and women and a great tradition. We gather, as we always gather, to remind ourselves that we value who we are, and the freedoms we possess. And to acknowledge the courage and the sacrifice of those who contributed so much to shaping the identity of our proud nations. Lest we forget."
Also part of the program were various prayers, a New Testament scriptural reading of Luke 6: 43-45, and the singing of the hymn "Abide With Me."
Wreaths were laid to honor not only the ANZACs but the Turkish forces. In addition, there was the playing of "Last Post," followed by two minutes of silence, the playing of "Reveille," and the playing of the national anthems of Australia and the United States. A brass quintet of the MCoE Band provided music.