"Meet me at the flower clock."
These were my dad Stan's parting words each ANZAC Day as he left with his brother Jim to join the Melbourne march. There, at the iconic floral clock on St Kilda Road, we would wait. My mother, brothers and sister with my aunt and cousins, all of us straining to catch a glimpse of dad and uncle Jim amongst a sea of proud veterans marching past us. Sure enough, after the ANZAC Day march finished, we would all reunite at the floral clock.
The Melbourne march of my childhood was a many thousands-veteran strong event with an even bigger crowd of spectators. My memories of the march are vivid and electric. But, the memory that sticks out for me the most is a feeling. A strong sense of pride, knowing that my dad, a Navy veteran of World War Two, was part of the march. He was there marching with those heroes of World War One and WWII, medals proudly on display.
After my brother and I served in Vietnam, marching on ANZAC Day became a family event when we all marched together. Dad, Jim, Ian and myself. Then it was my turn to ask my family to meet me at the floral clock.
"Each year, after completing the march, finding my wife, my children and later grandchildren at the floral clock felt like coming home."
If you are willing and if you are able, I encourage you to join an ANZAC Day march this year. Join the Melbourne march or a local march closer to home.
If you served, march with your mates—march with your fellow veteran and wave to your families, friends and a grateful community.
If you are a family member of a veteran, come out and watch a march. You are part of the ex-service community, and the march is also for you.
If you are a member of the community with no direct affiliation with service, know that you are welcome at the march, and I encourage you to come out and support our veterans who are marching. After all, those who have served and continue to serve did and do so for our communities.
There are so many reasons to be part of this year's ANZAC Day march. Each veteran and spectator will have a different reason; some join or spectate on a march for themselves, for friends, or for family. Others may show up on ANZAC Day in honour of something else, perhaps even the spirit of ANZAC itself. What matters most is that we are all part of the march, together.
Time has changed the march for me. I used to march for myself and my mates. This year, I will march on ANZAC Day as I always do, but will do so in memory of those I loved and have lost. I will march without my dad, who passed away in late 2019 and my brother, Ian, who passed away in 2020. I will march this ANZAC Day and hold close to those memories of marching with my family in years gone.
"I will march with the memory of waiting for my dad at the floral clock."
Dr Robert Webster OAM
This opinion piece was originally published in the Herald Sun on Wednesday, April 20.