Anzac Day is about remembering the role we play as a military in our country’s history and heritage.
We should be proud of the heritage the New Zealand military has, from our first forming as a nation, to the First World War, the Second World War and beyond to this day.
Anzac Day is about how we as a military force can feel proud about what our predecessors have done; about the role that New Zealand’s military has played in guaranteeing New Zealand’s place in the world, particularly the ethics and values and morals of our country and how we’ve stood up for those.
It also allows us to share an understanding of the job we are doing today, be it in New Zealand supporting Christchurch or maritime patrols or the like. The 14,000 people we have are spread right throughout the world, with most here in New Zealand but also overseas – in Afghanistan, Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands, or training in places like Australia, the United States and Europe.
My own view is that as individuals we bring very good professionalism to such commitments. We are well trained to international standards. We have people who really make their mark as individuals. As a country we come along to often dangerous places without a hidden agenda. New Zealand has always deployed its forces for the greater good, to do the right thing, not for self interest at the expense of those people we are helping.
By our actions and by our ability to relate one on one with those people, we very quickly gain the trust of local people and can deal very well with social differences, ethnic differences, without any kind of inference of treating them as second-class citizens. I think we can look at someone who is poor or uneducated and not treat them like they are lesser citizens than us. I think that is a gift we have. We’re not there to push our values but we live our values.
We also go into dangerous places. We are able to cope professionally and personally with that. The places where we are deployed are often ravaged and destroyed by years if not decades of social destruction, warfare and rivalries so we have to help the people pick up their lives and recreate the fabric of their country.
To me, Anzac Day is a higher profile national day than any others because Anzac Day commemorates our real sacrifice and loss as a country and as individuals. Every town and community and almost every family in the First World War and the Second World War had some kind of loss. It was the first time we as a country were united in that loss, so people born in New Zealand or born in Britain or Europe or anywhere else they came from, all had something in common. They had people going over fighting or they lost relatives.
This is why we often see this as the birthplace of our national identity, where for the first time we had something really dominant in our society that united us rather than divided us.
Chief of Defence Force
LT GEN Rhys Jones