Why Anzac Day in Glen Innes will be different

In the a few days our nation will commemorate ANZAC day.

The occasion will be a little different from what we are used to.

There will be no dawn service, no parade and no two-up. I feel most saddened for our town's veterans for whom the camaraderie of the day, and the honour we are able to give them, will be lost.

But what we can do is what is most important. We can remember. We remember the sacrifice of so many of our forebears. We remember the horrors of what they went through. We remember the lessons which their experience teaches us.

As John Howard reminded us in his 1997 ANZAC address: "Each of the fallen had a family and friends whose lives were enriched by their love and diminished by their loss. Each added to the life of a city suburb or country town. Each worked before enlistment, as a teacher, a farmer, a labourer, a nurse, a doctor, a clerk, or one of countless other occupations which add to the prosperity and the richness of a nation."

Former Prime Minister John Howard. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Former Prime Minister John Howard. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Of course, there are many which we could remember. One story which has stuck with me ever since I read it is that of Rev. Andrew Gillison. Gillison was a Presbyterian minister who enlisted in 1914 to serve as a chaplain with the AIF.

On 25 April 1915 he found himself aboard a ship as it arrived at Gallipoli. As a chaplain, Gillison was initially ordered to stay on the ship until the early fighting died down. However as the casualties grew he managed to talk his way off the boat and into a hospital where his time was spent consoling the injured and burying the dead.

The diary entries of many soldiers spoke highly of Gillison. His care and bravery making an enormous impression on those men in some of their darkest hours. On 22nd August 1915, Gillison was preparing to conduct yet another mass funeral when he heard groaning in the scrub above them on a ridge. The men crawled up to the top from where they could see a wounded soldier.

They crawled out to the wounded man and started to drag him back over the ridge. Crawling backwards in an effort to save the man, a bullet hit Gillison in the shoulder and exited through his chest. He died in agony three hours later.

What is it that could motivate a chaplain, who could have avoided much of the danger of the front lines, to make such a sacrifice? We need look no further than the epitaph on a memorial stone. erected in his honour.

In remembrance of Rev. Andrew Gillison M.A.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Words which come straight from the lips of Jesus. Words that anticipate the ultimate sacrifice - when Jesus Christ would go to a Roman cross, bleed and die, so that peace with God might be earned for any who would come under his protection.

It is fitting that Gillison would be remembered with those words. As a Christian minister, Jesus' great sacrifice that changed Andrew Gillison's life. And it was the example of his master which would lead him to spare nothing in the care of those he was sent to minister to. Not even his own life.

So whatever may be different this ANZAC day, let's not forget to remember. And as we reflect, may we remember people like Gillison. May we remember the great sacrifices they made for us. May we remember what drove them to give so much so that we can enjoy the life that we do today.

Lest we forget.

David Robinson is the Anglican Vicar at Holy Trinity Church, Glen Innes