I am thankful that as a young boy, I had the spirit of Anzac instilled deep within me. I was an 8 year-old Cub, and each year I would participate in the Ingleburn Dawn Service Anzac and street parade. A highlight for me, was the year when I was 12, and now a Boy Scout, I was chosen to carry the Australian Flag in the parade. I will never forget how exciting it was to be chosen to carry the flag at the front of the entire parade. I remember being so proud (and nervous) to be carrying the flag at the front of the procession, just behind the band, and seeing the many people from my neighbourhood, lining the street, waving small flags and applauding the oncoming diggers and servicemen and women. It was a big deal in my little hometown of Ingleburn, because of the army barracks and the fact that the Vietnam War was a very real and painful experience for much of my community.
As a child, Anzac Day become something that I eagerly anticipated each year and I recall my experiences with great fondness. I recollect the solemn faces of the men who would march by my side. I would try to look closely at their medals, but not want to be caught staring. These men would change within a couple of hours, and together we would share the free breakfast at the Ingleburn RSL Club. A little later, with a few beers in them, the men would soften a little, and if I was lucky, and also brave enough to ask, I would get to hear some stories about the medals and the men's experiences of war and service. I would sit at their feet as they played two-up, excited by someone’s big win, and I was captured by the spirit of the occasion.
I am proud to say that in my twenty years at Claremont College I have only missed one Dawn Service, representing our school. I was overseas in Africa that year. It is a special tradition that I look forward to, and I am delighted that each year, I have the opportunity to participate in our local Anzac Dawn Service, with Claremont students and parents by my side. I am always so very proud of the students who attend, and who do so looking so beautiful in their school uniform. Many of these children are wearing the medals of grandparents and great parents. Every year, Claremont College is one of the only schools in our area that participates with the expectation that children wear their uniform. They look fabulous and they too, are proud of representing our school and honouring the importance of this occasion.
Through their participation, I am especially pleased that the spirit of Anzac is being passed from one generation to another. My prayer is that the children are captured by all that Anzac Day represents, and that they will be attending and contributing as good Australian citizens all of their lives, passing the traditions to the generations yet to come.
It is incredible to think that Claremont College is an Anzac School. During World War 1 and subsequent wars and service opportunities, our school has been impacted by the many losses and the sacrifices that people have made. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be a close-knit school community grief stricken by the atrocities of a war, fearing for loved ones, and praying for their safe return. Imagine what it would have been like, in an age of no internet and limited communication, to be doing life together, when people you love are so far from home, engaging in battle. Perhaps this is why it is so important for Claremont College, we have never forgotten.
Lest we forget.