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Gerry Eckhoff: Anzac Day: Lest We Forget

Anzac Day: Lest We Forget

Gerry Eckhoff Speech to the Cromwell RSA Anzac Day service, Cromwell Memorial Hall, Cromwell, Sunday April 25, 2004.

Mr President, members of the RSA, ladies and gentlemen. April 25^th is the day we honour the inscription on every monument and cenotaph throughout the nation - "Lest we forget".

Today we gather, as do hundreds of thousands of Kiwis and Australians, to remember those who died fighting for their country. Many of us will have family members and, or, relatives, whose names are inscribed in stone upon these monuments.

These brave men and women gave us their lives and, thus, their futures. Without them, we can only but wonder just what our lives would be like today. Yet, I suspect, even with the turmoil still in the world today, those young men and women who lie in foreign fields would smile as they look around at our world and say "yes - our sacrifice was worthwhile".

It is, therefore, our duty to pass on to every generation that follows, just who it was that gave us our opportunities and our freedoms.

It wasn't the politicians. It was ordinary men and women, who knew that tyranny in all its forms must be stopped. It has been said that evil can only persist in the world when good people do nothing, and these people paid the ultimate price to fight that evil.

It is also worth reflecting on the turmoil and anguish that the parents, brothers and sisters of those who lost their lives went through when the telegram arrived to inform them of the death or wounding of their loved one. There were no government-supplied support services then. No counselling. No grief management services. No social services. No victim support - nothing. Just a plaque noting the death - with regret - of a father, brother, wife, mother, sister, son, daughter.

And yet, those people carried on. They had to.

And so today we should also remember those who waited, hoping never to receive the telegram that would change their lives forever. My own grandmother received two telegrams just days apart, informing her of the severe wounding of her two sons.

Anzac Day is our day, and it is theirs. It is our day to fulfil the promise made so many years ago, to remember the fallen - and it is our day to remember the anguish that so many families carried with them for the rest of their days. They who suffered in silence. Today people look to the Government when faced with trauma or difficulties and demand help. How things have changed!

It behoves us all to remember the words of President John F Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country".

Those young men and women we honour today have a right to ask each and every one of us that very question.

What can we do for New Zealand to ensure democracy and freedom we take for granted endures?

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