MANY readers will remember when there were multitude of veterans who donned their uniforms and with sad eyes, marched yearly to lay wreaths and think of friends and family who never made it home.
Honour, reverence and remembrance was the order of the day.
It is a public holiday in Papua New Guinea tomorrow. Why? National Remembrance Day.
It is a memorial day observed to honour PNG soldiers and officers who lost their lives during WWI, WWII and other military engagements within PNG and abroad.
Australia began to recruit PNG soldiers immediately before Japan entered the WWII.
They eventually formed five battalions of the Pacific Islands Regiment (PIR).
After the war, PNG soldiers continued to serve in the Australian military. When PNG gained independence, it established its own defence force.
The date of July 23 was chosen to commemorate the First Battle of Kokoda that occurred during the New Guinea campaign of the Pacific War.
This battle was fought between the allied (primarily Australian) and invading Japanese forces in the territory of Papua.
It took place on July 23, 1942.
Conditions were extremely uncomfortable as the battle continued over the next four months.
More than 600 Australians were killed and more than 1,680 wounded during the Battle of Kokoda.
The Japanese were attempting to capture Port Moresby, the main base in Australia which was located in New Guinea.
Over the next few days, the Australians fought to protect Kokoda, but the village fell to the larger Japanese force.
The battle was so fierce that the date was chosen as a day to remember fallen soldiers.
National Remembrance Day commemorates PNG soldiers who served in the Australian military and servicemen of the PNG Defence Force who died in service.
It is marked with an official remembrance ceremony held at Remembrance Park in Port Moresby.
The ceremony is held in front of the war memorial that depicts the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel” Raphael Oimbari, aiding a wounded Australian soldier.
Other centres host various activities to mark the day.
That’s it, pure and simple.
Unfortunately, much of the nation has lost touch with the original purpose of the day, especially for those who have no close ties to the military.
Pleasure, comfort and convenience have replaced honour, reverence and remembrance.
For many, the holiday merely serves as cause for barbecues, picnics and family gatherings, which are great.
But in the midst of it all we should never forget that many have died so that we can enjoy such pleasures.
We owe them and their families a great debt of gratitude.
Let us reflect on how much this event has changed through the years, but how much we still need this solemn reminder – maybe now more than ever.
At the least, we should take time to offer a simple thank you and, perhaps, to explain the real meaning of the day to our next generation.
They should know that without the grandest sacrifice by their forefathers, we would not be the nation we are today.
Lest we forget!