Anzac Day has become a sacred time for many Australians. Dawn services. The Last Post. A minute silence. Thoughts turn to sacrifice and freedom not long after another sacred day where similar themes are reflected on; Easter.
“There is a massive parallel between the two” says Army Chaplain Captain Gifford Smith, who has the unique position to see both days from the ‘inside’, “the sentiment, and the actual action, is so similar.”
“I think in World War I and World War II…the general consensus was they’d go for the adventure. They’d go with their mates, see the world, all that kind of stuff. But the progression was usually, that sense of adventure then turned into a nightmare for them and their response was ‘I need to look after my mate, I need to make sure he gets home alive’. And then it kind of morphed into ‘Oh my God, I don’t want this to happen to my family members back home, so I’ll fight tooth and nail so they don’t get to see this’. And then in this process finally was ‘God if you’re really there please forgive me, get me through this safely and get me home or bring me to you really really quickly’.”
“Sacrifice”, Captain Smith says, “Sacrifice that grew from their horrid existence.”
“In order for us to move forward we have to know where we’ve come from”, Captain Smith says, “our Anzacs, particularly in World War I, through their heroic acts, revealed to the world that Australians are extremely resourceful, extremely capable, tenacious, brave, compassionate group of people and fiercely loyal to one another.”
“As Australian people, we need to take stock of what we have…This is what I encourage; take the moment, understand what has happened, and what continues to happen through our serving men and women, as we are represented to the world by these wonderful people. Take stock of their actions and see what they have and what they continue to go through, and see what that means for us as Australian people, not only for our own freedom, but also how we are reflected to the world and what we give to the world through our actions. If we take a moment to take a look at that we kinda go ‘wow, ok, let’s be thankful'”.
A gun in one hand and a Bible in the other?
“The ‘bread-and-butter’ for a Chaplain is to basically sit with members and allow them to talk about what’s happening for them” Captain Smith explains. Chaplains also cover the area of religious ministry, “we conduct weddings, baptisms, funerals.”
Chaplain Smith says one of the most important job requirements for a Chaplain is to be a “great listener”. He says conversations between a chaplain and a defence force member can become quite deep, “the ‘big’ conversations come out of the smaller issues. That’s the key. Don’t get me wrong, when members come home from deployment, then yes, because of that adverse situation there are naturally the bigger questions that come.”
Exploring the sacred
Captain Smith says the parallels between Easter and Anzac Day are worth exploring.
“Easter is about remembering what Christ has done by coming into this world. Choosing to be fully human, choosing to see humanity eyeball to eyeball. Giving up his place in the complete bliss of heaven and mixing it with us and choosing to make that sacrifice and then going to the cross and rising again to bring about eternal freedom.”
“One is eternal. One is given in a space and time frame. Nonetheless, both are extremely powerful.”
And on the ‘big’ questions, Captain Smith poses his own for civilians to reflect on Anzac Day;
“How are you going to live out this freedom that our soldiers have given us?”