Iraq veteran Benjamin Lesley Gillman knows he was following big footsteps when he marched alongside Sydney’s diggers on Anzac Day.
“What I just did then is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” the 29-year-old told AAP.
“I had a sense of honour.”
The Cronulla local served in Iraq in 2007, in a unit that concentrated on rebuilding the war-torn country.
Now he’s home and marching as one of the young veterans sustaining the Anzac legacy.
But as he strode along Sydney’s Hyde Park, his thoughts were with the 40 fallen Australian soldiers who made “the ultimate sacrifice” in Afghanistan.
The RSL allowed young vets from recent conflicts and peacekeeping missions to take the prime position in the Sydney march behind the NSW Governor-General Marie Bashir and the RSL executive.
Thousands lined the streets in the Sydney city centre to pay respects to the veterans, young and old.
Among them were Rex Bayley and his wife, Fay, who took an early train from Gymea Bay so they could reserve their favourite vantage point along George Street.
Watching on as more than 15,000 NSW RSL serving and former defence force members paraded past, 75-year-old Rex said he wasn’t deterred by the soggy Sydney weather.
A little further down the street, Dellane and Rodrick Stewart seized the opportunity to teach their nine-year-old grandson Mackenzie some family, as well as national, history.
Mr Stewart, 78, followed his own father into the armed services, with stints in Borneo, Malaysia, New Guinea and Vietnam during a 19-year career.
With his great-grandfather’s medals pinned to his chest, young Mackenzie is just starting to grasp what that means.
It’s a feeling Gwenda Ick, 62, knows well.
Her father served in New Guinea in World War II, and while she was born after he came home, his trauma meant as a young girl she felt her dad was “always sick”.
“He used to get angry quite a lot,” she said.
But kept dry in the Legacy Widows stalls and wrapped up in a plastic poncho, her mother, Patricia Smith, said despite the horrors war had wrought on so many families, the Anzac Day march was still a special occasion.
“My husband passed away, but we still like to come in and watch,” she said.