East Gippslanders turned out en masse at dawn and mid-morning services across East Gippsland yesterday to remember the humble, courageous and selfless men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country … our country. Services, not impacted in terms of crowd numbers or significance by the damp conditions, also paid tribute to those currently serving in war and peacekeeping operations across the globe. With services well attended by school children, young families and the important part that children played in all services is used as a guide, indicating the hardships that those brave men and women faced many years ago will never be forgotten. Dawn services were held at Meerlieu, Paynesville, Lindenow, Omeo, Reedy Flat, Orbost, Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance, Mallacoota, Cann River and Metung, and mid-morning services at Bairnsdale, Mallacoota, Bemm River, Cann River, Lakes Entrance, Metung, Paynesville, Omeo and Ensay, in addition to school events held on Monday and other wreath laying services.
The importance of veterans and all the challenges they face, while also paying tribute to those who had given their lives for Australia’s freedom, was a focus at Bairnsdale’s 11am service following an excellent turnout for the march. RAAF Base East Sale’s Officers Training School led the commemoration march along Main Street to the cenotaph. Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan thanked the men and women who had given their lives and those who came to remember them at the service. “I’d like to start with a simple thank you; thank you for taking the time today to reflect not only on those Australians and New Zealanders who served so bravely on those distant shore some 100 years ago, but to all those that have served this great nation through war, conflict and peacekeeping operations,” he said. “Our presence here today to reflect, to remember and to give thanks is a statement. We’re saying that we will not allow ourselves as a nation to forget that our true identity was forged during times of extreme hardship, where service before self, courage, discipline, self reliance and mateship became woven in the fabric of our identity. “Freedom from oppression and dictators is not an inherent right to all, it is a right we have now because of the courage of our forefathers and the constant presence of members of the Australian Defence Force and her allies, who are willing to defend our values and beliefs at home and on distance shores.
“These operations have taken its toll though, we literally have thousands of Australians out there now who have returned from far away desert and seas, that are broken, disillusioned, lonely, deeply sad and often deeply traumatised. “Whilst it is imperative that we honour the fallen and remember their sacrifices on ANZAC Day, I’d ask you now to refocus on supporting our contemporary veterans and families so that they do not become another casualty of war. “It starts with a simple, are you ok?” Paul Dwyer, who marched with his sons Thomas and Keiran, said it was important to remember those who had served and to continue honouring the tradition of ANZAC Day. Paul’s uncle, Patty, served in France in WWI, while his grandfather served in Gallipoli. Meanwhile, Kathy Davenport wore her father’s (Raymond Farley) and grandfather’s medals proudly at the ANZAC Day service, highlighting how important it is to remember those who gave their lives for today’s freedom.