Crowds are seen ahead of the dawn service at the National War Memorial in Canberra.A century of war has left behind severed limbs and broken bodies, and service men and women undamaged but changed.
It’s a sight and a feeling veteran Army surgeon Colonel Susan Neuhaus knows all too well after serving in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Bouganville.
The first woman to deliver a commemorative address at the Canberra dawn service, she recalled her childhood experiences of the early morning Anzac Day commemoration.
As a girl she did not understand the silence “of half murmured hymns and of old men lost in their own thoughts”.
“And yet somehow those stories of service and sacrifice ground themselves into my DNA,” she said.
“Like most Australians today I have no faded photographs of men or women in uniform on my mantelpiece and don’t know of any family members who served on the beaches of Gallipoli, on the muddy fields of Somme or indeed the jungles of South East Asia.
“And yet like all of us I benefit from what they have done.”
Because of their sacrifices, those who are left to grow old do so in a peaceful country with the right to vote, marry who they please and hold the hope that future generations will have those freedoms too, she said.
Dignitaries at the Australian War Memorial included Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs.
But AWM director Brendan Nelson said the real special guests were the 38,000 everyday Australians who gathered under the stars waiting for dawn to break to remember the Anzacs and those who came after.
This year marks the 103rd anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli and the centenary of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.
Many among the crowds were there to remember someone special and honour those they served alongside.
Among them were hundreds of former Australian Army Apprentices.
More than 800 of them are expected to lead the march later in the morning as part of celebrations to mark 70 years since their formation.
Australian Associated Press