Still, there is war. In this centennial, we’ve been overwhelmed by memorabilia, photos, films, parades, ceremonies, and visits to battlefields, depicting both bravery and horror. The recently-returned still bear the personal memories and trauma of involvement. Families are affected. A year of national pride is tinged with sadness at the terrible cost of war.
On a recent visit to the Eden, NSW, we paused to read the war memorials set on the high cliffs overlooking the sea. So many names.
Amongst these was a plaque dedicated to those who manned the US Army Service of Supply-Small Ships. They sailed from Eden to support the American and Australian forces fighting the Japanese in Papua New Guinea and beyond in World War II. A fleet of all kinds of small vessels pressed into service.
Only the names of 33 local fishermen are recorded. The last lines moved us very much – “Over 3000 Australians served in these small ships, and many did not return to their homeland. Some were as young as 15 and others over 60”. Many lost at sea. All volunteers.
There is another group of volunteers to remember. A dedicated group of forgotten civilian heroines, mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of World War I soldiers who returned home wounded and disabled.
For years, these women gave peace, care and lifetime support to many suffering mental and physical injuries, which we now label PTSD. There were no antibiotics, specialist surgeons, psychiatrists, effective drugs or Medicare back then.
A group of women formed an association called “Women Caring for Veterans of War”. Recognising our failure to commemorate the enduring sacrifice of civilian women who cared for World War I veterans, an imposing life-sized statue of a civilian woman, circa 1918–19, was dedicated on Saturday 29 August, in the Victory Park at Ascot Vale.
Countless volunteers in all conflicts to honour. Their desire to serve, save and restore the broken. No history would be adequate record, or tribute. But their names and deeds are surely indelibly in the Book of Life.
How could a few minutes of silence be enough? We must do more to end the endless carnage of war, and its resulting trauma for generations.
Centuries ago, a prophet, seeing the danger in escalating weapons of destruction, challenged the nations to “turn their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning forks, and to learn war no more”.
Jesus understood the message of the prophet. In the Sermon on the Mount, he urged a changed direction of heart, mind and will, to work for peace. To mourn the state of the world, to be singular about doing right, humble enough to admit wrong, seek reconciliation, show mercy, forgive enemies. In sum: to be peacemakers.
Only then will we be able to repay just a little the sacrifices made in all conflicts, for us to live in this safe land, with responsibility to share our good fortune with the refugees in the world, our neighbours in need.
Image: Federation Square transformed into a sea of poppies earlier this year to commemorate Anzac Day.