Corporal Kevin Rankin has been to many Anzac commemorations across the country during his years of service and he reckons Sydney’s dawn service is one of the best.
“It was great, very good,” the bright-eyed soldier said.
“I went to Canberra last year and they’re all unique. But it doesn’t take away from how great this one is.”
Thousands were crammed into Martin Place, standing sombrely as dignitaries, veterans and serving defence personnel arrived in the early morning dark.
The service officially began when NSW Governor Marie Bashir entered, the last time she will do so in office.
Hymns were sung and memorial poems read before Ms Bashir pronounced The Dedication and laid a wreath on behalf of the NSW public.
NSW Premier Mike Baird, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, federal deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek and state opposition leader John Robertson were in attendance along with consuls general from Turkey, New Zealand, Canada and France and the heads of the state’s emergency services.
Giving the commemorative address, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie said it was important to remember the sacrifices made by diggers from all conflicts and their families.
“Their sacrifice, their ideals and their fame will continue to influence our society and give us great courage for the future,” he said.
“It has been written that a nation that cannot remember its dead will soon cease to be worth dying for.”
Mark James Weston served in Afghanistan with the fifth Australian Regiment from October 2010 to July 2011.
He’s been attending Anzac commemorations since he was a kid but it’s the first time he’s been to the service at Martin Place.
“Normally I just go to the Campbelltown one but it was very good,” he said, standing proud in a grey suit with his service medals over his heart.
“It was a different atmosphere. It’s good to see so many people here and a lot of kids as well.”
Afghanistan veterans will lead this march, expected to feature about 20,000 former and current defence personnel, and retired private Weston thinks this is a “good tribute” to the younger soldiers.
“A lot of people can easily recognise older veterans but I think it’s only been in the past decade younger veterans have had started coming into it,” he said.
“It’s nice to see the public seeing younger veterans more out the front and more common place.”
Before heading off into the dark streets to prepare for the upcoming march, Corporal Rankine, 39, had a question of his own.
“Where’s the nearest pub, mate?”