News: 'Anzac Day' remembered in Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Clay Beyersdorfer
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – At dawn on April 25, 2014, a crowd of nearly 500 people surrounded a small patch of grass at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
In front of them, small candles arranged in an organized pattern helped dimly light the miniature lawn.
The flames illuminated the faces of the crowd gathered in remembrance of “Anzac Day,” a national holiday in both Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all members of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces who have lost their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice during all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations throughout history.
Anzac day first came about after World War I, when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, nicknamed “Anzacs” by Gen. William Birdwood and his staff in 1915, are remembered for their efforts in attempting to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, which would help open a route to the Black Sea for the Allied navies so they could defeat the enemy forces.
During the siege, the Anzacs and Allied forces as a whole, suffered massive casualties and were unable to capture their objective, but the news of the fight at Gallipoli made such a profound impact in Australia and New Zealand, that April 25 became the official day of remembrance for anyone who had lost their life during war.
Forty candles burned during the early morning ceremony, one for each service member of the Australian and New Zealand Armed Forces who had lost their life in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The crowd attending the ceremony was composed of service members not only from Australia and New Zealand, but coalition partners as well.
Australian Chaplain (Maj.) Geoffrey Traill read the ANZAC Call to Remembrance, which reminisces on all of those who have died fighting for their country.
“We remember those who lie in unknown resting places in almost every land and those whose grave is the unending sea,” Traill said, addressing the crowd. “We also remember those who have died as prisoners of war, remote from their homeland and from the comforting presence of their family and friends.”
The Call to Remembrance also remembers “those from our women’s services, who gave their lives in many lands and at sea, and of those who proved to be, in much more than name, the sisters of our fighting men.”
Leaders from the Australian and New Zealand Armed Forces, as well as Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, commanding general, Regional Command (South) and 4th Infantry Division, and Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini, commander of Kandahar Airfield, laid wreathes commemorating those ANZAC soldiers who had lost their lives in Afghanistan.
Col. Brian Bailey, the senior national representative for New Zealand in Afghanistan, also spoke about the importance of ANZAC day.
“Today is a day we honor those who have fallen, and have given us their all,” Bailey said.
The celebration of Anzac Day in 2014 marks a special milestone, as the commemoration reaches its 100th year.
For the next four years, special ceremonies will be held worldwide, to include in the United States, France and of course Gallipoli, Turkey, all of which pay respect to the Anzac forces and their dedication during combat and peacekeeping operations throughout time.
Even though the ceremony on KAF wasn’t as big as those held around the world, the uniqueness of having one in a nation where coalition forces have been fighting to help provide security and stability for more than a decade in Afghanistan has it’s special place on the anniversary of such a historic day in time.
Flying officer L.J. Ligtermoet of the Royal Australian Air Force had a message for those in attendance and currently serving in Afghanistan during his Anzac Day dedication.
“Let use therefore once more dedicate ourselves to the service of the ideals for which they died,” Ligtermoet said. “Let their memory inspire us to work for the coming a new light into the dark places of the world.”