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The spirit of Anzac Day is ‘growing with every generation’

Australian Governor-General David Hurley lays a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Australian Governor-General David Hurley lays a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Photo: AAP

A single didgeridoo pierced the silence at the Australian War Memorial as thousands gathered on Anzac Day to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

Letters from Anzacs in World War I were read out and the names of fallen soldiers were illuminated on the building in Canberra, as the dawn service began at 5.30am and ended with a minute’s silence and the Last Post.

Thursday marks the 109th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, and RSL national president Greg Melick said the significance of Anzac Day is “growing with every generation”.

“This year should see a reinforcement of that growth, with young Australians taking an even keener interest in recognising the sacrifices of our service personnel,” he said.

“On Anzac Day, we honour the legacy of the first Anzacs and that of all who have followed in their footsteps.”

More than 8000 Australians died during the Gallipoli campaign between landing in modern-day Turkey on April 25, 1915 and the evacuation on December 20 of the same year.

Surf boats perform a burial at sea for the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Currumbin on the Gold Coast. Photo: AAP

Changing perception

Lieutenant John Walter, from the HMAS Cerberus Navy training base, told The New Daily that the Anzac spirit is fundamental to what they do every day.

“We’ve got the largest population, the lowest rank, in the Navy here at Cerberus. There are sometimes up to 25,000 trainees,” he said.

“It’s our job to shape, mould and mentor the youngest of our population and with Anzac Day coming up, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the people that have gone before us.”

He said his perception of the importance of Anzac Day has changed since joining the Navy in 2001.

“It’s an incredibly emotional day, particularly when you’re deployed with your colleagues on a ship, away from your friends and family,” Walter said.

“If time permits, the whole ship would pause and reflect and conduct a service on board the ship.”

More than half a million living Australians are either serving or have served in the Australian Defence Force, according to the 2021 Census.

Families march

Renee Wilson, CEO of the Families of Veterans Guild, said the Anzac spirit is important to serving members and their families.

“It’s the genesis of where the spirit of our community comes from and the people connected to the armed forces,” she said.

“Whether you wear a uniform or you’re a family member of someone who does, it resonates with you.”

Previously, only widows of veterans had a spot in the Anzac Day march down Elizabeth Street in Sydney.

This year, Wilson and other family members will be joining the march.

She said often what connects people is shared hardship and suffering.

“That’s why the bonds formed within the Australian Defence Force and the veteran community, including the families of veterans, are so strong,” Wilson said.

“Our veterans do a great job at protecting Australia, our peace, security and way of life, and we don’t necessarily think too much beyond that.”

Wilson said serving members and their families make sacrifices that many Australians may not be aware of.

“Twelve months after my husband was injured in Afghanistan, I said to one of the officers that Australia needs to know about this,” she said.

“He said the mark of my success is that Australia doesn’t know about this.”

The Families of Veterans was founded in 1964 as the War Widows Guild NSW. Photo: Renee Wilson

Mark of success

Anzac Day was first observed on April 25, 1916 and became a public holiday around Australia by the mid-1920s.

Melick said 1.5 million Australians have served in overseas wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

“Australians can honour our veterans by attending an Anzac Day service or march, and assist veterans by buying RSL Anzac biscuits or a badge, or by donating to the Anzac appeal,” he said.

“From services at Gallipoli, the Western Front, throughout Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere, millions will come together to honour our veterans on this solemn day.”

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