Why do we march on Anzac Day now more than ever before?

Yesterday record numbers showed up in solidarity for soldiers who never made it home and for their loved ones who did but were never the same again, lost in the shell shock of having to hate their fellow man for no other reason than their commander and country asked them to.

Now there is a lasting legacy for those lost lives and souls and the legacy grows stronger each year.


Up and down the land of the long white cloud of peace, people are pinning on their fathers' and forefathers' medals and taonga, and walking the talk of their tūpuna (ancestors).

Yesterday there was a strong feeling of kotahitanga - of oneness as we walked. The thought of recent acts of terrorism were ever present everywhere and strengthened the resolve to not "let the evil bastards win", just as it did for our fathers and fore-
fathers who marched off to war in far off lands - and the land wars here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

While I understand the concerns and the cause behind trying to limit the number of marches in light of the mosque massacres, it wasn't - or isn't, going to stop those who want to walk the talk of peace.

Not in our little town of Te Puna where 150 of us proudly marched, well more meandered really.

So why did we march?

Here's what some of the marchers said -

"Only 50 years separate the end of the NZ wars and WWI. I'm marching today to remember my ancestors' remarkable journey from enemies to brothers in arms and all that we've achieved in unity together." - Graham Bidois Cameron.

Pirirakau hapū member Don Thwaites: "My grandfather was at Gallipoli "


Residents of 45 years: "Excellent to acknowledge the community and Anzac Day."

Ricky Kuka: "The mana of those who passed on."

John Butt: "Because I can't run anymore! We're also carrying a taonga from Anzac Cove.
Many march because they believe in the kaupapa — honouring the fallen who never came home from war. For me its all about our father and our forefathers.

Our father went to war for exactly the same reasons our forefathers did, even though he fought for the Crown and country, while my forefathers fought against the Crown to hold on to their lands.

Both fought for the freedom of their whenua, their homelands.

For me, it doesn't matter in the time frame from when our forefathers fought for what they believed in, to when our fathers did the same thing 50 years later. Our history is littered with lives lost in wars. A history that spans a thousand years from when Māori first arrived until the arrival of Cook 250 years ago.

When we stop counting years and start counting the cost of war then we will start to understand where all the flowers have gone.

Our kids get it, as did we the post-war generation. We understand peace and want it more than the generations before them — or do we? Maybe its because we never lived through a war or is it because we have history on our side now we can access it in its raw truth, via social media. Whatever the reason is for the resurgence in Anzac Day marches it is a walk in the right direction.

Our fathers who art in heaven must be blown away - as many were back on earth during war, to see what is happening on Anzac Day today.

Finally, we are waking up to war, the bloody bastardry of killing each other in the name of victory over an enemy who wants to live in peace just like us. For me, that's why so many march and each year more and more are giving back to what they were given, by showing up as they did yesterday.

What matters most is what we have learned from our hidden history where wars were fought in our own backyard as they were in far off lands.

In my dad's day, he and his RSA mates had a song they sang to remember their mates. It was all about asking where had all the flowers gone.

The song, like a meandering march, follows the pathway of a soldier and the heartbroken loved ones he leaves behind when he heads off to fight for the freedom of his country.
Each verse tells in stages the journey of the flower - where they have gone from being picked by a young boy and given to his sweetheart before leaving to go to war and then the heartbroken girl placing them on the gravestone of their true love. Each verse ending with the same question.

When will they ever learn—when will they ever learn?

For now, we march and we learn. We walk and we talk about why we march and as we walk we remember our fathers and our forefathers who went to war for us all.

Lest we forget all who have fallen—in far off lands and here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Kei Wareware Tātou.

Tommy Kapai Wilson is a local writer and best-selling author. He first started working for the Bay of Plenty Times as a paperboy in 1966 and has been a columnist for 15 years. Tommy is currently the executive director of Te Tuinga Whānau, a social service agency committed to the needs of our community.