Coleambally’s 20th ANZAC dawn service saw its biggest ever crowd, as more than 170 people braved the rain to pay their respects to the men and women who have fought for their country.
Ken Martin, the Vietnam veteran who founded the ANZAC dawn service in the town in 1998, led the proceedings.
“When we started a dawn service here twenty years ago, we had a gathering of nine people. It’s amazing to see how much it’s grown,” he said.
As the rain poured down at 5.45am, dozens clamoured inside John McInnes Square, Mr Martin addressing the crowd before the national anthem was played.
ANZAC Day is important as ever to Mr Martin, as he says Australia has “still got a long way to go” in terms of how it looks after its veterans.
“We now have a good level of care for those while they are serving, but tend to forget about what happens to those after they return. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can effect soldiers for decades after they have fought, and there is a need for continued support,” Mr Martin.
Few would be more qualified to speak about such issues than Mr Martin, the second of three generations in his family to have served his country. His father fought in World War II and son is now with the army, based in Brisbane.
It was half a century ago that Mr Martin was conscripted to fight in Vietnam, as a 20-year-old.
“I never thought to question my conscription. It was our duty,” Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin also organised a nominal role for those living in Coleambally and Darlington Point who have served in the military.
Other veterans of conflicts were at the service, as well as a number for former national serviceman.
Nick Hutchins, an 84-year-old former national serviceman, and his wife Rosemary had been to more than 25 ANZAC services in Darlington Point and Coleambally.
“We’re still in great health, and we’ll be here for a few more,” Mr Hutchins said.