Wagga was out in force at the Victory Memorial Gardens' Cenotaph this morning to honour the fallen and commemorate our service personnel.
In the chilly morning air, thousands of residents, service people and community leaders gathered for the first of the Anzac Day ceremonies, the 6am dawn service, delighted to return after the coronavirus lockdown saw last year's services cancelled.
"I'm here because I'm ex-Army and to show my support to the other service people," said veteran Ray Bourke, who served in Iraq.
Mr Bourke, like so many, was in attendance with his children, Tristan and Charlotte, a sight that delighted others gathered.
"It's lovely to see everybody out there today and it's good to see so many young people, it gives you heart that they've not forgotten," Korean War veteran Harry Edmonds said ahead of the service.
"It's the dawn service, remembrance, it's what it's all about."
Kildare school captains Jacinta Byrne and Matthew Anderson presented a preamble to "In Flanders Field" on stage and were touched by the number of people present.
"There were a lot more people than we expected, there was definitely a sense of unity," Miss Byrne said.
"It's a lot more powerful when you see so many people, you can visualise the power of the event," Mr Anderson said.
Group Captain Chris Ellison is the senior defence officer at the RAAF Base in Wagga and welcomed the opportunity to gather with the community again.
"Clearly the people want to be here, I'm much happier that we're here," he said. "I stood in my driveway last year on my own but it's much better when people collectively have a chance to honour the sacrifices of those who've gone before."
For Marie Clear, who bought along grandchildren Alice, Flynn and Marley, the dawn service was all about education and remembrance.
"My ancestors went to Gallipoli and I think it's very important for the children to know about it and all the wars," Mrs Clear said.
As the sun slowly rose across the gathered crowd, Legatee Anthony Paul introduced the memorial service conducted by the Venerable Dr Grant Bell, while the Wagga City Male Rugby Choir provided music.
Mr Paul was delighted with the service, which he estimated had about 3000 people in attendance.
"It was a beautiful service and a good crowd," he said.
Veteran Charlie Miles said it was "terrific" to have the service back after last year.
"The service was beautiful, we missed it last year, we really missed it," he said.
This year the dawn service was not followed by the traditional trip to the War Cemetery for COVID-19 restriction reasons.
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