As we commemorate ANZAC Day this year, we might do well to dwell upon the verse of Cecil Spring Rice's hauntingly evocative anthem. Dismissed by many in the present day as trite and bombastic, the idea of making undaunted the final sacrifice is a bewildering and terrifying concept for those generations for whom war is a thing of the past.
War is ugly, war is savage and brutal, yet in the early part of the 20th century, war was a harsh reality for most.
And the wars fought against Germany and its allies were amongst the most barbaric ever; the scale of loss is almost impossible to comprehend, unless you visit the War Graves Commission sites in Northern France. There, as far as the eye can see, stretching across beautifully tended fields of green, away almost the horizon, stand thousands upon thousands of crosses. Plain white wooden crosses, the only reminder that below each one lies the body of a man who made that final sacrifice.
Few if any of the young men who went to war in their country's name harboured any illusions about what awaited them. Yet they went. And they fought with impossible resilience and courage, and after millions had died, they endured, and victory was theirs.
War has many causes, none just, yet all unavoidable. When mankind exhausts it's verbal weapons, it resorts to physical combat to win the debate. It was ever so, and ever will be.
And so they went. Brothers, cousins, mates and strangers, united in a common cause, because their country asked them to go. Some returned, but those that fell, who died screaming, crying, in unimaginable pain, did so with honour. "Theirs not to reasons why, theirs but to do and die"
And so it is right we should continue to honour their memory, and that sacrifice they made for us.
If you have not read Robert Harris's "Fatherland" a chillingly vivid portrayal of a 1960s Europe post a Nazi victory in the Second World War, you should do so. It serves as a stark reminder of what the Tommies and the ANZACs were fighting against, a brutally oppressive regime where freedom was verboten.
This past week a contingent of NZ Defence Force soldiers have been despatched to Iraq to assist in the War Against Terror. We are lucky there are brave men exist to undertake such a task. They are trained professionals who have volunteered to do so. In their absence we ordinary folk might once again be called upon to make that final sacrifice.
George Orwell summed it up when he said: "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf"
Yes, we are indeed fortunate, and we must ofttimes remind ourselves, that we are not called up to "ask no question" and to "pay the price" in the way that our grandfathers and great grandfathers did.
This weekend is not a time to question the morality of war, nor the wisdom of high command. To decry war is to decry those who died to end it, to dishonor the memory of their bravery.
Instead we should just remember them, and honour that memory, for they died for us. Their fortitude, their refusal to be daunted, is what protected us from having to endure the horror of war ourselves, to be torn away from our screens and our lives and plunged into a maelstrom of death and destruction.
And for that, our gratitude should last until eternity.