Boomers are lucky. We were the first generation of New Zealanders who did not go to war, apart from Vietnam where New Zealand's involvement was token compared to Australia.
The death toll in that crazy war was not token; New Zealand lost 38 brave professional solders with many more wounded as the price of toeing the line with the Americans.
In every generation back to the New Zealand Wars I have had forebears fighting. Two of my great-grandfathers fought in the Taranaki Campaigns in the 1860s and another fought in India for the British Army before immigrating.
I had a grandfather and a great-uncle who served in both World Wars. My son's generation had Bosnia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. He went to war as an 18-year-old, serving in some of the worst hellholes on earth as a young soldier for six years. Both his grandfathers fought in World War II.
My generation used to mock the old "RSA-types" for being fogies with short hair and bad attitudes, my father's generation. I grew up seeing men old before their time with amputated limbs, terrible facial scarring and broken minds living in my community.
In my neighbourhood just about every dad and some mums had served overseas in World War II. I remember my father regularly going to funerals for mates who were only in their 40s, dead long before their time due to injuries and illnesses from war.
There were still many old chaps around who had fought in the Great War; again, amputees, gassed and broken men but struggling on into old age.
As an 11-year-old schoolboy travelling home one day on the train I watched with my pals as a man broke down crying and collapsed in the carriage, shouting out and punching and kicking the air. The guard and a male passenger bent over and gently comforted him until he was quiet.
The chap was a returned man as were the guard and the other passenger who helped. They knew what was happening and sat with him, chatting and understanding, the passenger getting off with him to walk him home. Old soldiers understood and had to care for each other as no one else knew the pain and terror many endured on our behalf so we could have the standard of living and the lifestyle most of us take for granted nowadays.
We all knew about the war but no one spoke of it, especially our fathers. "What did you do in the war Dad?" was usually met with stony silence or the pithy phrase "war solves nothing".
We saw our dads' contribution every Anzac Day when they would all rise early, put on their best suits and their medals, taken out for the annual wearing, disappearing into the dark for Dawn Parade, arriving home a bit tiddly, mid-morning, for breakfast, then off to the RSA for a day of reminiscing, laughter and tears.
Most would arrive home the worst for wear, the medals slipped a bit, to be put to bed by our understanding mums. Weary, sometimes emotional or angry. Many were heroes in their day but later living with frightening memories, normal young men changed forever.
New Zealand punched above its weight in all the wars it fought. New Zealand still produces excellent military, welcome anywhere they are needed. Some say this is due to the tough, independent Irish and British settler stock and the war-like Māori stock this nation started with in the 19th century, initially fighting each other and then combining to become a highly respected military force.
As a child, Anzac Day was really just another holiday for me.
Times have changed now and as a country, young children included, we are much better at observing Anzac Day. It has become our national day over recent years, remembering the many thousands of young men and women who have died since that disastrous Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Seventeen thousand young New Zealanders fought at Gallipoli, 2779 died and 5212 suffered physical wounds. The survivors went from there as part of the 1st New Zealand Division to the Western Front where a further 12,500 were to die before the war ended in armistice.
In total, including the Palestine Campaign, 16,697 young New Zealanders were killed and 41,317 wounded during World War I, a 58 per cent casualty rate, from a force of 100,000; 10 per cent of the country's population. These figures do not include the men mentally scarred for life or who died within years of returning to New Zealand as a result of wounds or illness. A visit to the Karori soldier cemetery in Wellington reveals scores of graves of young ex-soldiers who died in the 1920s.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.