MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – U.S. and international military partners, family and friends gathered around a dimly lit beach on MacDill Air Force Base, Florida at sunrise for an Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Day commemoration service April 25.
Anzac Day is always honored on April 25 and marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI.
"For New Zealanders and Australians at home or abroad Anzac is their day to not only remember the people who died on that day, but to remember all Anzac. To remember all the former men and women of our defensive forces," said New Zealand Army Col. Andrew Shaw, New Zealand's senior national representative at U.S. Central Command.
The dawn service observed on Anzac Day has its origins in the military tactic to prepare before dawn so by the time the first light crept across the battlefield soldiers were awake, alert, and manning their weapons in case of attack. A dawn vigil became the basis for commemoration in several places after the war and has since become the Anzac Day Commemoration.
U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, U.S. Special Operations Command, commander supported his international counterparts during the commemoration. As part of the ceremony, members laid wreathes symbolizing the fallen comrades. Thomas participated in that portion of the ceremony representing the United States.
In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. The ultimate objective was to capture the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople – now Istanbul.
The Australian and New Zealand Forces landed on Gallipoli on April 25, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defender. The campaign quickly became a stalemate, and dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula, with both sides suffering heavy casualties and enduring great hardships.
Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and April 25 soon became the day on which the sacrifice of those who died in the war are remembered.
Australian Army Brigadier Paul Kenny, USSOCOM deputy director of operations, recited the fourth stanza of the Ode of Remembrance during the ceremony, which is from a poem written by Laurence Binyon called For the Fallen.
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them," Kenny recited.
The recitation of the Ode of Remembrance is a time honored tradition during the Anzac commemoration ceremony.