This Anzac Day as we begin to contemplate the courage and dedication of the brave men and women who have fought and died in the defence of our great country, we sometimes wonder what has happened in the short space of time since these soldiers went to battle in far away lands. Our society has been enveloped in so much change, and indeed the communities that were so simple and uniquely "Aussie" whilst they still exist, in some cases may well bear little resemblance to how they would have looked to our young troops who left our shores for battle.
We all know and remember the tales of the veterans who survived the horrors of war. Most of them very much valued the letters and images from home, a land so far removed that had they not been constantly reminded of this great south land where they grew up, they could lose all hope and give in to a relentless enemy.
Obviously we owe a tremendous debt to these men and women and rightly so we remember them with honour and solemn reflection every year at this time.
The image on the left is that of a soldier saluting a fallen comrade under the Southern Cross constellation. This star cluster is proudly displayed on the Australian flag and is given pride of place in Australian folk lore. Every Australian upon finding themselves outside on a cloudless night looks carefully for this iconic pattern in the heavens. It is easy to find in the Southern sky as it never sets below the horizon.
The irony is that in the midst of the vast majority of conflicts on foreign soil, the Southern Cross is not visible at all in the night sky.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross may only be seen at certain times of year and usually very low in the sky. This in itself would be a concern to the keen star gazers in the armed forces in times of battle. In fact the northern stars appear quite different to what we have become accustomed to in our beautiful part of the world.
As the Australian flag waved in the breeze of war torn battles, the stars emblazoned on it's face would be the only reminder of a much loved and treasured land and the loved ones waiting anxiously at home.
In many parts of the world today we hear of strife and conflict. Thankfully, we live in a land that is at relative peace and every day we enjoy the freedom that has been bought at a huge price. As we ponder the sacrifice of our service men and women this year at Anzac Day services around the country, take some time out, perhaps before a dawn service and set your gaze upon the Southern Cross hovering majestically overhead.
It's a comforting and familiar sight which in some small way I'm sure helps us to reflect with great pride in our Aussie spirit, and our ability to keep our eyes on the prize ... the prize of liberty and freedom ... bought with a price for each and every one of us.