How Commodore John Stavridis commemorates ANZAC Day every year

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Every year, on April 25, Australians honour all those who have fallen, those who have served and all of those who continue to serve and sacrifice for our country.

The annual national holiday, known as ANZAC Day, involves annual marches, ceremonies, a minute of silence, speeches, and special guests from all over Australia, and is celebrated in each state, especially in the nation’s capital, Canberra.

This year for ANZAC Day, The Greek Herald spoke with a Greek Australian Commodore in the Royal Australian Navy, John Stavridis, who gave us the scoop on how and where he commemorates the day and why it is important to him.

He has been in the Navy since 1988 and is currently responsible for the delivery of all training in the Navy, which includes training for new recruits all the way through to specialist courses.

“My story with ANZAC Day started early. My father is from the Greek island of Lemnos, and as many may know, it was the Island that logistically and medically supported the 1915 ANZAC Gallipoli Campaign. So, from a very young age I was aware of the links and bonds between Greeks and Australians,” Commodore Stavridis told The Greek Herald.

“My dad is also a veteran having served with the United Nations Forces in the Korean War. I would accompany him to the RSL on ANZAC Day (and other days throughout the year) for the Dawn Service. 

“I have wonderful memories of the diggers, their positivity, resilience, humour, humility, and mateship. It was clear to me they had a love for Australia and that desire to serve made a lasting impression on me.  I remember those diggers being humble, asking for nothing and yet had served our nation in such difficult conditions.”

Commodore Stavridis said ANZAC Day commemorated the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915.

Anzac Day 2015.

“It is now a day where we acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our current and former service men and women who have served and died in all conflicts but also our allies who have served alongside them,” he said.

“ANZAC Day is also a reminder to me that our freedoms and way of life are something to be cherished as they are the outcomes of the sacrifices and service made by those before us. They therefore deserve our recognition, respect, reflection, and gratitude.

“I think in some small way it also helps them and their families understand their efforts and sacrifices were not in vein but rather helped forge our wonderful nation.”

The Greek Australian Commodore said he has attended every possible ANZAC Day ceremony, however, has not marched every year due to being deployed at sea or on operations. 

“My first ANZAC Day was as a child, which continued during high school years (my high school would also conduct a service and support the march) and of course, ever since joining the Navy,” Commodore Stavridis said.

“My children now attend Dawn Services, and they march with me. I love telling them stories of their pappou and his service. They also love to make ANZAC biscuits every year to mark the occasion.”

Commodore Stavridis said every year on ANZAC Day he participates in the Dawn Service, and then following that, he visits his local church to light a candle, and then spends the rest of the day with his family.

“The day is not only about those who serve or have served, but also the people who support their service and make so many sacrifices to facilitate it, so time with family is important to me,” he said.

“I march to commemorate and pay my respects to those who have served and sacrificed for our way and quality of life. 

“I am forever in gratitude for those young men and women who forewent their entire lives so that we may be free as too their families.”

For this year’s ANZAC Day service, Commodore Stavridis will march in Canberra with the Lemnian Association to mark the release of the new documentary ‘Anzac.Lemnos.1915’. “I always look forward to ANZAC Day not because it is a public holiday, but rather an opportunity to stop and appreciate what we have and thank those that helped grow our nation,” Commodore Stavridis said.

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