One Man's ANZAC Day

Every year on the 25th April we remember ordinary people who did the extraordinary for people they would never know...

Every month I help to organise the Australian Web Industry Association meeting in Perth (Port80). The event is held at Spacecubed, the entrance for which has a very insightful quote:

"A society becomes great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in."

The quote itself really speaks to me but on a day like today it seems to be even more significant. Partly because most of the "old men" who gave their lives fighting for our country were actually very young, and partly because these men and women were ordinary people who did extraordinary things - benefiting those they would never know.

Every year on the 25th April we remember these people and the sacrifice that they made so that we could have the life we have today.

Were it not for my great grandad - pictured above (I'm the grumpy one in the red jumper) - I often wonder what the day would mean to me. Having never experienced war, or a time where my freedom was threatened, would I understand what it's all about?

"Grandad Roberts" was always interested in the latest technology. He loved adventure and he loved to take risks. He was a man with a real sense of humour. When he was 75, three years after his wife passed away, he decided to leave the shores of the UK and start a new life - in Australia!

Grandad Roberts died when he was 98. I was 15, so I'm blessed to have been able to speak with him, to know him and to walk with him in ANZAC parades in Perth when I was a boy. It's also amazing to have personally known someone born in the 19th century!

Grandad Roberts lied about his age so he could sign up to fight in World War One with the British Army. With no knowledge of such wars and the carnage that came with them, it must have been quite a buzz for a 16 year old. These days the nation is shocked when just one soldier dies - as they should be - but back then... some figures put the total casualties including loss of life around the 20 million mark.

So 16 year old Reginald Roberts left the shores of the UK and fought for his life while fighting for those he would never know.

Remarkably, he returned home to his family. He left as a boy, he returned as a man. I'm sure he must have been thankful that it was over, that he would never have to do such things again.

Except that in 1939, he did...

This time knowing the devastation, knowing the carnage and knowing that he once again may not return. He joined the Air Force and left his wife and 10 year old daughter, to fight once more for those he would never know.

Once again, he returned home to his family, to a world which enjoyed freedom. Freedom that would cost him his memories, and others their lives.

Because of Grandad Roberts, ANZAC Day for me has real meaning and I hope that I'm able to teach my children and grandchildren that the trees of freedom whose shade they sit in, were planted by men and women who acted selflessly for those they would never know.

Lest we forget...