It is more than 100 years since April 25 was officially named Anzac Day in New Zealand.

Since then every year on this date people around the country, and New Zealanders overseas, have marked the day in a variety of ways, with ceremonies, parades and services and today will be no different.

Looking back through the Stratford Press archives at coverage of Anzac Day in the past, I see articles raising the question of falling attendance at these events, a concern that as the two World Wars have become distant memories for people, so did the sacrifice made by the service men and women.

As my only experience with Anzac Day services is over the past 17 or so years that I have lived in New Zealand, I can't comment on attendance or form a view on if it is in fact falling or not, but I can, and do, have an opinion on if it is as meaningful today as it ever was.

Advertisement

While the World Wars are now further away in time and memory, it is a sad fact that the spectre of war itself has not left us.

Today, as we enjoy time off work and the freedom to choose to attend a service or not, we do so while servicemen and women around the world put on their uniform and venture out into unknown and unsafe territory in the name of peacekeeping.

Today, while our children play safely in our backyards, children around the world face an uncertain future and no time for play.

Everyday, men and women serve their countries and, sadly, still are giving their lives in the name of peace.

There may be fewer casualties today than there were during the World Wars, but for every family who has lost a loved one, the grief is the same.

While the origins of Anzac Day are further away in time now, I believe the sacrifice being honoured is still relevant to us today and the list of names of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice becomes longer each year.

Perhaps it is true that names such as Sari Bair or Lone Post are less known by the younger generations today, but I believe most young people in Stratford do know the name, if not the full significance, of Gallipoli or Chunuk Bair.

In part that is possibly due to our town's proud connection with Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone, but I think it is also because parents, grandparents and teachers all talk to the young people in their care about this period in history.

If you visit one of the schools in the area around this time of year, chances are you will see some school work on display linked to Anzac Day. Over the years I have covered all sorts of interesting and creative things schools have done to enhance student learning on the subject.

From digging trenches in the school field to putting white crosses on display, from holding their own services to placing wreaths on behalf of their school at the formal services, students have been actively involved in playing their part in showing respect to the fallen. Last weekend the Pioneer Village took us back in time to the war years, giving a vivid reminder of life during the war. As people walked into the village they would see a fantastic display by the pupils of Ratapiko School on display, reminding us of the importance of Anzac Day.

Through the years Stratford has had some impressive guest speakers at the Anzac Day service, high ranking military officers alongside politicians including Jim Bolger (1983) and Rob Muldoon (1973), but two of the most impressive speakers I have heard since moving to Stratford were Olivia Slater and Jake Vincent last year. The teenagers, who were the head girl and boy of Stratford High School at the time, spoke movingly about what Anzac Day meant to them in speeches that moved many present.

By the time this paper is in your mailbox, many of you will have attended one of the services taking place in our region. I attend the Stratford ones and am always impressed by the number of people who are there, especially the number of younger people who attend. The local air cadet squadron will be there, as will representatives from the local schools, Scouts and Guides, St Johns and other youth service organisations.

So perhaps the numbers are less than in days gone by, but the number of young people who attend can give us hope that the tradition will carry on long into the future.