1 John 3.16–24
I hate militarism. I loathe nationalism. But I honour those who serve.
How do we speak on a day like this? At this very time one hundred years ago, the Anzac forces—and, let’s face it, the Turkish soldiers too—were going through hell.
Soon we’ll sing the 23rd Psalm; some of the Anzacs will have been reminding themselves of the words of that psalm. Later we’ll say the Lord’s Prayer; many will have been saying that prayer too. They must have been praying above all for it to stop, so they could go home to their sweethearts and wives. After all it was General Douglas MacArthur who said:
The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.
We know of course that these scars are not just obvious ones such as lost limbs. They are post-traumatic stress disorders, they are alcohol and drug problems, they are chronic depression, broken marriages and chronic unemployment.
You may have heard that Australia became a nation on 25 April 1915. Of course, that’s not literally true. We became a nation on 1 January, 1901.
What actually happened on that day at Anzac Cove was that we suffered our first great disaster as a nation. Over 620 men died on that one day. All together, Gallipoli cost the Allies 141000 casualties, of whom more than 44000 died. Of the dead, 8709 were Australians and 2701 were New Zealanders. More than 85000 Turks died.
As a nation, we had to make some sense of it for ourselves. So—apart from that last part, apart from the casualties the Turks suffered—Gallipoli has become our founding myth. Like so many myths, parts of it are true. But only parts.