Arriving at Kate’s house with Ashley and Bruno, I try my best to focus on any last minute organization. Despite the mental fog of the anti-seasickness medication, I have not forgotten what today really means. For New Zealanders and Australians, April 25th or ANZAC Day is considered the most important national day on the calendar. ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) commemorates those "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.” On this day the public wear little red paper poppies in remembrance while attending dawn parades that take place throughout New Zealand and Australia. Historically, the poppies are linked to the battlefield deaths during the Allied invasion of Gallipoli in WWI and now symbolize remembrance.
Every year on April 25th, despite living thousands of miles away from home, I wear a red poppy to honor my late Grandfather who served in WWII, fighting in the North Africa campaign and who received many formal accolades for his efforts on behalf of our country. He will forever remain one of the most influential people in my life for his steadfast and unwavering character, his unconditional love of animals, his selfless love for and commitment to my Grandmother and family as well as for a life full of beating the odds. I miss him so much and choose to honor him not just on ANZAC Day but each and every day. Today I will be wearing my red poppy with immense pride.
Now rearranging my gear to fit in Kate’s car for the trip over the Golden Gate Bridge to the yacht club in Tiburon, I search for my red poppy. After some time rummaging, I locate my meticulously packed swim kit. For each of my swims I carry this special kit onboard the support boat, which contains a variety of different items that may become necessary. Extra goggles, swim caps, glow sticks, ear plugs, jellyfish repellent lotion, sunscreen, feminine hygiene products, safety pins, and even a couple of epinephrine pens. All are very practical and neatly packed into this kit. For the uninitiated, I am happy to provide an exhaustive list, but as a brief disclaimer, please do not use these items as a sanity check. We all know the answer to that query. Every single item has a designated location in the clear plastic pockets that line the interior of the bag. There is even one special pocket containing sentimental items: a small rock from New Zealand, a Challenge Coin gifted to me by my good friend Mike Thornton, as well as a Challenge Coin gifted to me by a Marine and his wife at work. And last, but not least, I also carry a decorative ANZAC Day Poppy, in honor of my late Grandfather.
I locate this small red paper Poppy, and pin it to my down jacket. And because our swim today coincides with the 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day, I packed an extra Poppy for my Australian swim buddy, Simon to wear during the relay. It is an honor to join my Australian buddy for this historic swim on this historic day.