On Monday April 26 I attended the ANZAC Day Commemorative Service held at Washington’s National Cathedral. As the Fulbright Visiting Scholar at CANZPS it seemed a good and proper thing to do. It was certainly an impressive occasion and worth attending. The magnificent Gothic-style stone Episcopal (Anglican) Cathedral is billed as the sixth largest in the world, and the second largest in the USA. It took almost a century to build and was only completed some twenty years ago. It hosts numerous events of national and civic importance, as well as occasions of diplomatic, military and political significance such as the regular ANZAC service.
Preceding and following the ceremony was a live Didgeridoo performance; its unmistakable sounds resonating in spine-tingling fashion around the soaring heights of this vast Cathedral; Australia had made its mark. But the soprano soloist, Marie Te Hapuku, equally impressed with her renditions of the three National Anthems – Advance Australia Fair; God Defend New Zealand; The Star Spangled Banner – as well as the haunting Pö Atarau (Now is the Hour) following the address given by the New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Roy Ferguson.
Upon entering the Cathedral I saw that all the seats in the nave had on them a copy of the Service Order and either a red poppy (worn by Kiwis) or a twig of rosemary (worn by Aussies). I chose a seat with a poppy. As well as a strong showing of Australians and New Zealanders, there was an obvious presence of US military and from elsewhere. The diplomatic corps was also well represented. I found myself next to a Lieutenant-Colonel of the USAF, now on his last tour – at the Pentagon – ahead of retirement; along from him was a member of the Canadian Defence Force. The service ended with the retirement of the National Flags. Another memorial concluded; the memory kept alive – Lest We Forget.