THOUSANDS of people have attended Wagga’s 2017 Anzac Day Dawn Service, braving predictions of rain and being rewarded with a moving service that prayed for those still suffering from war as well as the fallen.
The rain for the most part stayed away during the service that began at 5.30am and was centred on the Cenotaph in the Victory Memorial Gardens and conducted by Wagga Legacy.
A crowd that rivalled 2015’s Centenary of Anzac turnout filled Baylis Street in front of the cenotaph and stretched from the Wollundry Lagoon bridge to the Myer department store.
“It’s brilliant,” said Wagga Legacy president Michael Cummins when asked about the attendance.
“The weather forecast was 100 per cent rain and we still had a crowd as if it was a perfect morning.
“It’s a staggering number of people considering the forecast, and like previous years many young families are here with children.
“It’s clear that their parents and grandparents have pushed the importance of Anzac Day.”
Naomi Stuart and her husband Luke Gaynor roused their three children – Heidi (9), Poppy (7) and Max (4) at 4.45am to attend the service.
“I think it’s important that we acknowledge those who sacrificed their lives for our country, and it’s particularly significant in the turbulent times we live in now,” Naomi said.
“It’s wonderful to see such a strong crowd turn up to honour the legacy of the Anzacs.”
With their dad, Heidi and Poppy laid a wreath on the Cenotaph for their late grandfather, Trevor Stuart, who served in the Vietnam War.
They also placed on the Cenotaph a letter for Mr Stuart and their maternal great, great grandfather, William Hawker, who fought at Gallipoli.
“We came here for the Anzac people because they fought in the war and saved our country, and especially for our grandfather,” Heidi said.
The girls are also expected to represent their school – Lutheran Primary – in Wagga’s Anzac Day march along Baylis Street at 10.30am.
“Seeing young people lay wreaths, that was pretty special,” Mr Cummins said.
“And it was nice that we acknowledged not just those who have given their lives in war, but also acknowledged the young defence men and women who have returned from conflict and have given their health.
“It’s important that we remember them, as well.”
Prayers led by Father Reece Beltrame, Reverend David Ruthven and Reverend Paul Cosier supported the world’s nations, those on active service service and those who suffer as a result of war.
Mater Dei Catholic College captains Olivia Shaw and Tom Hallam recited the Legacy Inspiration.
Hymns and the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand were sung by the Wagga City Rugby Male Choir.
Corporal David Mathews sounded the Last Post and a kookaburra sang in the background as the crowd observed a minute’s silence before the Rouse was sounded and the Australian and New Zealand flags were raised.
Legatee and secretary of Wagga Legacy, Anthony Paul, was master of ceremonies.
“On this day above all days we recall those who, in the great tragedy of war, gave their lives for Australia and the freedom of mankind,” Mr Paul said to open the service.
He recalled the places in which Australians lay buried on foreign battlefields going back to World War I and remembered those whose resting places are unknown.
“We think of every man, woman and child who, in those crucial years, died so that the light of freedom and humanity might continue to shine and lead to a life of peace on earth for all of mankind.
“That magnificent sacrifice continues through the presence today of Australian Defence Force personnel and peace keepers in many parts of the world.
“Let us never forget them.”
The Dawn Service was followed by a remembrance service conducted at the Wagga War Cemetery by the Wagga sub-branch of the RSL.
The 10.30am march will begin at the intersection of Baylis and Morgan streets.
Hundreds of marchers are expected to take part and be watched by thousands of people lining the street.
Among the marchers will be members of the HMAS Wagga Association, who are holding a reunion in their “home port”.
The march will end at the Victory Memorial Gardens where a commemorative service will be conducted by the sub-branch.
The occasional address will be delivered by Major Jaime Fox, Officer Commanding 1/19 Royal NSW Regiment.
An Anzac Day lunch will be held at the Wagga RSL Club from 12.30pm and Anzac Day in Wagga will conclude with a sunset service at the memorial in front of the club at 5.30pm.