MANY sounds are only concepts to me: the sound of an air-raid siren warning of an imminent attack; the declining whistle which accompanies a falling bomb; the staccato rhythm of strafing gun fire; the wails and cries of civilians in distress in the midst of a violent assault on a city. These are the sounds of war, and the Australians who have known these in their intensity are few.
This week we recalled and renewed celebrations of the end of the second world war. The vast majority of Australians in 1945 knew these sounds all too well, or knew the anguish of loved ones who faced them every day with their life. I think it is fair to assume that unless you have been in it, you cannot know what it is really like.
Similarly, the celebrations which marked the end of the war were probably more intense than those which marked its anniversary. It is only because the depth of suffering was real that the celebrations that marked their end could be intense also. Surely no-one can be happier than the one who is set free from a present reality: the one who fears its recurrence, does not really know the original hell.
We need to remember this event. Though the soldiers who march in ANZAC day parades are all old, those who gave their lives were not. Brothers, young fathers, young men, teenagers: these were the casualties. Men in their prime, and many who had not reached their prime; some had only begun to reach their potential. We need to remember war, to celebrate its end, lest we forget its great cost in human lives, so these sounds continue to remain concepts.
August 20, 1995
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