Australians recognize Anzac Day as one of their most important national holidays, marking the anniversary of the first major combat action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I at Gallipoli. The memorial service here was led by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at Memorial Park in Jacksonville.

ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as the Anzacs and initially took heavy casualties at Gallipoli, but became known for their fearlessness and determination in battle. The pride Australians and New Zealanders took in the Anzac name a century ago continues today.

Over the years the meaning has broadened to include those who lost their lives in all the military and peacekeeping operations in which Australia has been involved. “Anzac Day is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It’s a tradition in which Australians have gone to war with ever since,” said Senior Chief Gas Turbine Technician Tony Walsh (Royal Australian Navy), who works at Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) through the military foreign exchange program. The exchange program helps foster strong partnerships by providing Officers and Sailors the opportunity to share professional knowledge across continents and cultures.

The ceremony began promptly at dawn, when in battle the half-light of dawn was one of the most favored times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were woken in the dark before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons. Initially the dawn memorial ceremony was reserved for veterans, but today families and young people are encouraged to view the service.

“I am glad my Sailors had a chance to participate in such a unique and moving ceremony. It reminds us how special the people are that we work with,” said Senior Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician Adam Dixon. “I don’t want my Sailors to ever give up, and the Anzac memorial service today was a perfect example of that mantra.”

During the ceremony wreaths were placed at the base of the “Life” statue, a bugler played the Last Post, and two minutes of silence was observed to commemorate the lives of Australians who died during all wars.

The program concluded with the playing of the national anthems of the United States and Australia.