In the darkness of Melbourne’s Anzac Day dawn service, headlights shone over volunteers selling badges, poppies and pins.
“They pay me triple time and a half times nothing,” quips volunteer Tony Comley, whose father, Alfred Comley, was captured during World War II.
“That’s a little Anzac humour from the Burma-Siam railway of death,” he said.
“Humour is the only thing the Japanese couldn’t take away from them. They only had a piece of string around their waist and a loincloth. Their clothes had rotted away.”
Alfred Comley was sent to Changi prison before being moved to work on the Burma-Siam railway, along with Edward “Weary” Dunlop in 1943.
“Weary Dunlop saved many men’s lives by amputating limbs, but he saved hundreds more by having them dragged from the front line,” Mr Comley said.
His father was one such man. He weighed just 32kg when he was sent back to Changi prison to recover.
Like many of the estimated 60,000 who gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance for the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, Mr Comley displayed a chest full of medals.
Louise Percival, who went to the dawn service for the first time, also proudly decorated herself with medals honouring her grandfather, Donald McKenzie, who fought at Gallipoli.
Next year she will represent him in the centenary march.
“It was quite emotional,” Ms Percival said. “A very beautiful service.”
Relatives of World War I veterans will be front and centre in 2015, but this year Shrine of Remembrance chief executive Denis Baguley says servicemen and women from later conflicts are being recognised.
Post-1975 veterans will lead the 2014 Anzac Day parade.
Graham Connor, a Vietnam War veteran, is hosting a party of 10 relatives and friends who have flown from Perth for the dawn service.
“They’ve come to push me,” said Mr Connor, who will navigate the Melbourne parade route in a wheelchair.
After his father’s stroke in the late 1990s, Tony Comley asked Anzac House for a wheelchair.
“I thought they would give me a push wheelchair. They gave us an electric wheelchair,” he said, growing tearful.
“I thought what could I do for them? I wanted to do better than just buy a $10 badge. So I sell them.”