News: Mayor’s speech for Anzac Day

26 April 2022

Despite Covid-19 precautions scuppering many Anzac services this year, there was a solid turnout gathered at the Featherston War Memorial on April 25 this year. South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen was on hand to say a few words to those assembled and for those who were unable to be present, we include his speech:

On Anzac Day we often quote an English poet Laurence Binyon. In 1914, he wrote the poem, For the Fallen, and it includes the famous words:

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

This poem definitely struck a chord. It has been used in association with commemoration services in Australia since 1921, and similarly in New Zealand.

Binyon wrote at the outbreak of World War 1, when many people believed the war would be over in a few short months.

He was too old to serve, although he volunteered to work in a French hospital. His reverence for those going to war is indeed very touching, but it was left to other poets to talk about the real horrors of the front line.

These words resonate with us today as a brutal war is being waged in Ukraine.

It’s horrific to see civilians being caught up against their will in the conflict.

It’s inspiring to see the bravery that is being exerted by the Ukrainians.

And it’s sobering to be reminded that war has never really gone away, even in our Western world.

This Anzac Day we can only fervently hope that war doesn’t come knocking again at our nation’s doors.

We know from history and the daily news how unglamorous and damaging the reality of war can be.

However, to stand by while warlords expand their territories at any cost is not something the modern world can tolerate either.

Wiser heads than ours, perhaps, will have to resolve these terrifying competing tensions.

We can only hope and pray the right decisions are made and the right outcomes are reached.

In the meantime, we thank those among us today and those who can’t be with us, who went to war to protect what we hold dear.

It might have been an older conflict like Gallipoli or Messines, or a modern conflict in Vietnam, Korea, Burma or Afghanistan. It might have been a peacekeeping exercise.

Wherever in the world you served, we thank you for that service.

And we are forever thankful for the many who sacrificed their very lives. We know it cost them everything, and it is up to us not to waste the opportunities they brought us.

With Covid still about, we are having to find many different ways to honour our war heroes on Anzac Day.

We can stand at our gates, we can lay a poppy on a memorial, we can look up their photograph.

But perhaps the most important way to remember them is to make the decisions that preserve the world they would have wanted.

Like Binyon, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember you.

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