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WWI 100 years later: Australians mark ANZAC Day at Air Force museum

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel participates in a wreath laying ceremony at the Anzac Memorial in Sydney, Australia, August 11, 2014. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released)

One by one, they laid red poppies next to three wreaths to remember the fallen of Australia and New Zealand.

In the year marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, about 100 people, some wearing the uniforms of foreign militaries, marked ANZAC Day in a sunrise ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The day commemorates the first major battle Australian and New Zealand troops fought in World War I.

Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Andrew State said the United States and Australia have stood together in battle in every conflict since.

“Our two nations have stood together for a hundred years so for us there is some symbolism about almost 100 years nearly to the day since America joined World War I so I guess there is some extra significance there,” said State, who is assigned to the U.S. Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Direcorate at Wright-Patterson.

Australian and New Zealanders mark ANZAC Day in services around the world, which State described as a combination of Memorial Day and Veterans Day in the United States. “It’s an opportunity to remember those who’ve passed in previous wars and also celebrate those who are on active duty now,” he said.

ANZAC, which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, represents thousands of troops from both nations fighting Ottoman Turk forces beginning April 25, 1915 on the Gallipoli peninsula in what was the Ottoman Empire and is now northern Turkey to open the Dardanelles straits to allied navies. Australia lost 8,000 troops in the months-long battle that ended in a stalemate.

For Turkey, which lost many troops in the battle, the war was a defining moment, said Turkish Capt. Ihsan Topaloglu, who spoke at the ANZAC ceremony Tuesday.

“Nobody wanted this war,” he said, yet both sides fought with “great courage and heroism.”

“We understand the scourge of war which brought untold sorrows to us all, both ANZACs and Turks,” he said.

U.S. Air Force Col. Trisha M. Sexton saluted after laying down a red poppy next to the three wreaths to symbolize and remember the sacrifices over a century ago.

The vice commander of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson served with Australians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants, as some great man once said, and it’s days like today that we can remember those guys and what they’ve done for us,” she said in an interview.”… Everything we do today is partnered with our international partners and so I think it’s important for us to support them. They support us.”

Air Force veterans Paul W. and Susan E. Roberts, both of Beavercreek, rose early to attend the sunrise morning service, as they have every year for the last six.

It’s an act of camaraderie, and to remember Paul Roberts’ grandfather who immigrated to the United States from New Zealand in the early 1900s.

“We learned a little bit more every year” about the sacrifice of Australia and New Zealand troops, said Paul Roberts, 62.

Royal Australian Wing Commander Brent Smith has taken part in each of the three years he’s been assigned to Wright-Patterson.

“Honestly, I am appreciative of the support we get from the U.S. and the fact that the local community and so many people come out to participate in the ceremony,” he said. “(It) is humbling that people think that much of Australia or their relationship between Australia and the U.S.”


© 2017 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.