OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - Under the breeze of the brisk mid-morning Nebraskan sky, Australian military members assigned to U.S. Strategic Command held a ceremony on the command's historic missile deck May 4 to honor their fallen comrades.
Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Day, or ANZAC Day, has been held since 1916 in remembrance of the more than 10,000 ANZAC troops who lost their lives during a campaign at the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during World War I. ANZAC Day, which is normally commemorated on April 25, has also become an annual event at USSTRATCOM which hosts multiple servicemembers and international partners from militaries all around the world.
"ANZAC Day is a significant day for all Australians and New Zealanders. The post-Vietnam generation has fully embraced the commemoration, which recognizes the sacrifices of our fallen and today's servicemen and women," said Australian Army Maj. Jason Gregson, Military Satellite Communications Systems and Planning Branch, USSTRATCOM. "I believe learning military history beyond your own is the sign of a good soldier, sailor or airmen. "
USSTRATCOM senior leaders, along with troops from all branches of service, attended the event which included a wreath laying ceremony to pay respect to servicemembers past and present who lost their lives rendering military service. Australia, New Zealand and the United States were represented respectfully by Capt. Stephen Elms, Australian Defence Force Liaison Officer, Royal Australian Navy; Capt. Paul Burke, Royal Navy for New Zealand; and Gen. C. Robert Kehler, Commander, USSTRATCOM.
Captain Elms sees the cultural military exchange as a way of further strengthening ties with long held allies.
"The military linkages between the United States and Australia run deep. Since WWI, both nations have fought side by side in every major conflict," Captain Elms said. "Our common mindset and principles will ensure this continues well into the future. Of particular significance, our involvement here at STRATCOM further defines our relationship through bilateral agreements for communication systems. "
In addition to the wreath laying, the three countries National Anthems were performed by the Command Performance unit, along with the reading of The Ode, a recitation of "A Tribute to ANZAC Day" by Master Daniel Gregson and a minute of silence for the war's lost.
ANZAC Day holds special meaning for Major Gregson who has a personal connection with the holiday.
"My ancestry is represented in each and every conflict dating back to the Boer War. The commemoration of ANZAC Day has significant meaning throughout my family with direct linkages to the landing at Gallipoli with my grandfather's uncle losing his life on that day at Gallipoli," Major Gregson said. "My brother and I have had the honor to deploy to Afghanistan at the same time as a part of the Australian Special Operations Task Group, while our father and two uncles served in Korea and Vietnam. "
Captain Elms shares the same reverence along with his family history having a similar commitment toward military service.
"My two brothers served in the Navy and Defence, where our combined period of service, as of today, comes to 81 years of service. Also, my wife has 12 years of active service under her belt and my father was in the National Service Scheme back in the 1950's. So we are a military family that believes that service to one's country is likely the best contribution one can make, both personally and professionally," he said.
Captain Elms added that he would like the ANZAC Day service to motivate servicemembers and civilians alike to learn more about different military cultures.
"I hope this service sparks an interest leading someone to further research the military bond between our nations and the strategic successes that are only found through synchronized efforts of allied nations," he said. "Whether it is the first defeat of Gen. Rommel at Tobruk, which turned the tide against the Germans in Northern Africa, or the combined efforts in the South West Pacific that halted and repelled the Japanese invasion, it is the cause and effect of each battle success that is amplified across the theater through allied cooperation and synchronization. "