For all of the methods of discerning a society’s civic virtue, few are more effective than gauging the treatment of veterans. The esteem with which a society holds those individuals who fight on behalf of their fellow citizens is an unparalleled bellwether. Seeing ANZAC Day (Australia/New Zealand Army Corps) was a truly eye opening experience for me.
ANZAC day is best described as a combination Veteran’s Day/Fourth of July/Memorial Day in the states.
Now for the obligatory Conquest history lesson.
On April 25, 1915, the ANZACs stormed the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. The objective was to establish a beachhead from which the British Empire would overrun Constantinople, forcing the Ottoman Empire to withdraw from the war and clearing Russian shipping lanes through the Black Sea.
Landing a mile north of their intended jumping off point, the ANZACs were under heavy fire from the moment they reached the beach. In a force of 16,000, there were 900 killed and 2,000 casualties. However, they established a beachhead, and defended it the next day against a massive onslaught of 42,000 Ottoman soldiers. While casualties were high on the storming, this is considered to be one of the greatest victories in ANZAC history.
By the end of the Gallipoli campaign however, more than ⅔ of the ANZAC force was either killed or wounded. This lead to the World War 1 total of 145 deaths per 1000 mobilized for the Australian military, the highest of any British Commonwealth force.
40% of men from the age of 18-44 years old participated in the war. 1 out of 6 never came home.
Hell considers itself insulted by comparisons to war. Your mates don’t disappear daily in Hell.
Both Australians and New Zealanders have held ANZAC Day in the highest regard since 1916. Every town in Australia big enough to warrant a post office also has a war memorial. Dawn service is proudly held at each one. 10,000 civic pilgrims head to Gallipoli annually to celebrate Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove. Demand is so great, that ANZAC Cove has a lottery to determine attendance.
When I compare this to Memorial Day/4th of July/Veterans’ Day in the states, I’m more than a little embarrassed. Much like we’ve taken the Christ out of Christmas, we’ve largely neutered the patriotism that these holidays were meant to engender. A prayer and flyover prior to a sporting event is lip service, nothing more.
The US Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that there are an average of 22 veteran suicides daily. A veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is ⅔ more likely to be unemployed than a civilian counterpart, and untreated PTSD has cost a generation of our service people and their families an incalculable sum.
As the brother of a veteran and friend to many more, I find America’s civic efforts to our veterans to be inferior at best. Given the real issues facing those whom we have asked to fight on our behalf, our efforts towards veterans have been sorely lacking. Those who volunteer to vouchsafe our freedom deserve better than the insufficient scraps that DC has seen fit to give.
The cost of these wars has been greater than the 4-6 trillion USD shown in the liability column of America’s balance sheet. The cost has been in lives, whether destroyed or irreparably changed by conflicts which have dragged on without conclusion for far too long.
Any society that doesn’t spend the time to reflect on the true cost of war will inevitably find itself misunderstanding the pricelessness of peace.
When I see the 10,000 Aussies crammed around the Victoria War Memorial at 4:30AM on a public holiday, I see a population that truly values the sacrifice of its veterans. Good on you Australia. I hope that my country can learn from your example.