Gratitude on ANZAC Day

– By Kirsty Greenshields

I took this photo from my bed this morning, as I lay there in reflection of the last 10 years, since experiencing ‘the bomb that changed our lives’.

ANZAC Day didn’t play much of a role in my life, until I joined the military in 1994. Before that I had no significant close family connection to war. Apart from history lessons at school, I felt distanced from war.

Serving in the military puts war in your face every day. It’s the purpose of the job – to train to ‘fight’, to ‘defend’.

Then I deployed to East Timor in 2000. Whenever I exited my compound I would have to take my loaded rifle, and if going on long trips, I had to wear body armour. I lived among a small village in the hills, where people who lived in small huts, with dirt floors and grass roofs would go to church and sing harmoniously in union. I’ve never been a religious person, but I would go to church just to be in the company of these people.

I wondered “What am I fighting? What am I defending here?” But I never voiced my thoughts, because I knew the spiel. We were defending the right of these (helpless) people to live peacefully. We were fighting the militia elements that were still present and creating a less-than peaceful atmosphere.

I returned home from that deployment and sank into depression because I had been awakened to a paradox, which I had previously chosen to ignore.

By the time James deployed to Iraq I had distanced myself from the military and become a ‘peace-loving hippie’ (as described by some who knew me). We argued a lot about the purpose of our country’s involvement. We were both rigid and dogmatic in our beliefs and neither of us were prepared to budge. We were fighting a war with each other, and our relationship was on the verge of breakdown.

When he left for Iraq I was ANGRY. Big time. I hated him, and who he was choosing to be. I hated that our lives were moving in opposite directions, and I didn’t know if I wanted him to come home to me.

In late March 2007, four months after he left, we met in Vanuatu and, after many letters of apology and deep reflection to each other, we decided we truly loved each other, and when he came home we would rebuild our marriage and our life together.

On 23 April 2007, James’ convoy and vehicle were hit by a roadside bomb. Miraculously his entire crew survived. He experienced shrapnel wounds, and every now and then I still remove a tiny shard, which has pushed its way out of his body, through the skin.

On ANZAC Day 2007, still in a bit of shock, I sat in gratitude for the life of my husband, and for the decision we had made to continue to LIVE together.

On ANZAC Day 2017, I do the same. I have medals, and I will show you them if you ask, but I have no need to wear them. I have no need to march, or fight or defend because I choose to live in a world that the East Timorese people taught me about.

I choose harmony and gratitude for life.

Each day I choose peace.

I no longer fight the military and its purpose. I no longer defend my position as a peace-lover. I believe most of humanity loves peace, and that’s why our military brothers and sisters do what they do. And I love and honour them for that. It’s why I joined – because I want peace.

As I admired this photo I took of our bedroom window this morning I noticed the symbolism of the (necessary) integration of the paradox in our life, 10 years on. Embracing all of our choices and parts helps us live in greater acceptance of ourselves, and of others.

There is the statue from one of my retreats in Bali, the feathers and symbols of James’ time in a Native American medicine circle, our crystals, James’ meditation chair, and the cartridge James received from a posting at the 2nd Cavalry Regiment – the unit with which he was serving when he was hit by ‘the bomb that saved his life’.

Today, 10 years on, I embrace Who I Was, Who I Am, and Who I Will Become.

Today, I choose gratitude for LIFE.

Thank you ANZACs for wanting peace just as much as I do and doing what you believe needs to be done to have it.

Lest we forget the sacrifices that have been made in the name of peace.

Let us re-member the importance of choosing peace every day.