We salute the casualties of our greatest folly

On Tuesday we honour those who have fought and fallen in the name of our nation.

It is an emotionally complex day. We come together as a community to pay our respects to those who have sacrificed their bodies for the sake of what we hope was a righteous cause and a greater good.

And in this coming together there is strength and dignity as well as a great sadness.

We are often told that it is also a day to celebrate the human spirit, the birth of national pride, the making of the Anzac legend, the defining of qualities that we take to be particularly our own.

Yet when we stand, heads bowed in a minute’s silence or at the playing of The Last Post, celebration seems far from our hearts, for we are mourning the terrible loss of innocence, the slaughter of our youth.

We are immersed in the greatest of human tragedies. We can look around us in those moments and see standing beside us, boys in their teens; our sons, brothers, nephews, who have barely outgrown their childhood, and we know that in another time and another place they were volunteers charging across a battlefield and falling by the hundreds, lives lost before they were even lived.

We choose this particular day to remember, not only the devastation of Gallipoli, but to salute all those men and women who have perished in battle.

Yet, no one really survives war. Those who return must always live in the shadow of that nightmare, irreparably damaged, casualties of mankind’s greatest folly.

It should be a source of real pride that the ceremonies of Anzac Day are attended and respected by large numbers of our community.

By doing so we are passing on a great lesson to the next generation. We can say to them: This is what we have become, and this is the price we had to pay.

For this is not foremost a day of patriotic flag-waving; it is a day of profound respect and sombre reflection.

What we can truly celebrate is that we do remember. We have counted the toll and will respect both the bravery and fear of those who found themselves in the darkest of places.

On Tuesday we can pay homage and shed tears, and pray that now, and in the future, we will be worthy of them. We will remember them.