Today is a special day for us to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy as people who live in the Pacific.
It is Anzac Day - a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served in wars and conflict.
Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (A.N.Z.A.C.) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. However nowadays it is also a time when men and women who served in more recent war zones are also included and honoured.
Anzac Day is also observed in the Pacific – in the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn Islands, and Tonga, and in Papua New Guinea.
So what has this got to do with Samoa and Samoans?
Although this commemorative day is no longer a public holiday, the fact remains that a considerable number of Samoans also fought and served alongside the Australians, New Zealanders and Pacific island neighbours to preserve our freedoms.
It is also a fact that some of the brave men and women who travelled across the seas, many for the first time, did not return but were killed on foreign soil. Others who were lucky, had experiences that possibly stayed with them for the rest of their lives.
Some of us are descendants of those brave volunteers.
It is now 100 years since World War 1 which lasted from 1914-1918 and last year, as well as special celebrations for the centenary, our young people in Samoa were encouraged to research, learn and write about war in general and World War 1 in particular.
Many who participated in the essay writing competition organised and sponsored by the New Zealand High Commission had never thought very deeply about war and the impact it has on people and places.
This year, the sacrifices made will again be remembered with a Dawn Parade and Service and a chance for war veterans, their families and friends to reflect on those who didn’t return to their homes and their families.
Young people throughout the Pacific region, who have studied history, have in recent years shown increased interest in war through their attendance at Dawn Parades in Australia, New Zealand and some of the Pacific islands.
It has provided an opportunity for our upcoming leaders to calculate the cost of war in terms of lives, land and the fate of generations of the future.
So today on Anzac Day, we can show our appreciation to our ancestors who in some cases sacrificed their lives by donating some money for a poppy – a symbol of peace and remembrance.
According to a World War 1 article: “In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were ripped open as World War One raged through Europe’s heart. Once the conflict was over, the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields. The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in World War One and later conflicts.“
The donation you give today for a poppy will be used by the Returned & Services Association of Samoa (R.S.A.) Inc to support activities to ensure the men and women who went to war for us all, are honoured.