For the first time in three years, Australian veterans and their families commemorated Anzac Day together in person on the 107th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
Monday marks the long-awaited return of face-to-face camaraderie on what is otherwise a solemn day, with thousands gathering at the dawn of services across the country and the world.
“For many veterans, Anzac Day is the only time they could catch up with their mate – the guy they served with in Vietnam, or the guy from whatever ship they served on,” the veteran said. of the Vietnam War and President of RSL Victoria, Dr Robert Webster OAM. The new daily.
“So it’s a special day of the year.”
The national dawn service in Canberra began with a moment of quiet reflection followed by the sound of a didgeridoo being played by Worimi’s man, Chief Airman Tarryn Roach.
Army veteran Mike Ruffin – who served in Malaysia, Borneo and Vietnam – told the service at the Australian War Memorial that it was a day to reflect on the Anzac spirit.
He spoke of his personal experience on New Year’s Eve in 1968 during the Vietnam War, which had forged a lasting bond between friends.
“In hindsight, it seems inconceivable that five men could run 100 yards of open ground while being subjected to such an amount of fire and not receive a single gunshot wound,” he said.
“If any of us had been hurt, that would have been the end of it because we would never have left a mate behind.
“Every Anzac Day I look back on that experience and am so grateful that we all survived. We still stay in touch to this day.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor deputy leader Richard Marles will be in Darwin for services, while Labor leader Anthony Albanese remains in isolation at his Sydney home as he recovers from COVID-19.
In Victoria, thousands of people gathered outside the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance, with crowds sitting quietly in chilly conditions.
Dr Webster expected the numbers to be slightly lower than pre-pandemic crowds due to the long weekend and school holidays.
After Monday’s dawn service, veterans will march through Melbourne’s CBD for the traditional Anzac Day march.
But this year, which marks the 60th anniversary of Australia’s entry into the Vietnam War, the focus will also be on smaller community commemorations.
“I don’t mind if people don’t show up at the shrine [of Remembrance] as long as they show up in Greensborough, or Hawthorn, or Dandenong, or wherever,” Dr Webster said.
Sydney’s Martin Place was filled to capacity for the Anzac Day Dawn service.
David Young, a serving member of the Australian Navy, said he was back in service to educate his children about his military career.
“Being in the Navy for 24 years is a chance to remind kids of the story behind why I serve,” he said.
“I’ve lost guys I’ve served with and that helps explain what I’ve done in my career history.”
Cameron Barnett, 24, of the Scouts, said many former members of the youth group ended up going to war and Anzac Day was of major significance to the organisation.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet arrived with one of his daughters under an umbrella as light rain fell.
The Prime Minister read Sydney Napier’s poem Salute, written during World War I and published in 1937.
The Royal Australian Air Force will also hold flyover demonstrations at more than 50 locations across New South Wales, including Sydney, Newcastle, Wyong, Cessnock, Ourimbah, Woodburn, Grafton and Bega.
But NSW RSL chairman Ray James OAM, who is also a Vietnam War veteran, is concerned about the future.
“This year’s commemorations are safe in the hands of our incredible members, but we must act now to keep these events going,” he said.
“And that’s where young veterans can help.
Only in Western Australia will the day’s events be reduced due to pandemic considerations.
“Managing proof of vaccination and social distancing in pre-dawn low light conditions would be extremely difficult and contact tracing would be impossible,” said RSL WA chief executive John McCourt.
It comes after a lone man, who was not a veteran, drove through Perth CBD on Anzac Day last year when the city was in lockdown.
Dr. Webster said DT that this year’s commemorations have a particularly personal meaning for him.
“My brother, who was a Vietnam veteran, passed away in May 2020,” he said.
“I’m going to catch up with some of his friends this weekend that I haven’t seen, because we couldn’t have a funeral [beyond limited numbers].”
It is a day of mixed and complex emotions for many veterans and their loved ones.
But Dr Webster said most were looking forward to the meetings which are three years behind schedule.
“Now, whether it’s the march, or whether it’s a unit meeting, or whether it’s, you know, just in their local suburbs, I think it’s expected that happen.”