They turned up en masse and marched shoulder-to-shoulder at the break of dawn to say: "We will remember them."
More than 1000 students, youth and Scout groups were among an estimated 7000 that gathered for the Anzac Day dawn service, which was performed for the second time on a pleasant morning at the Cenotaph at Whangarei's Laurie Hall Park yesterday.
Chief guest was Commodore Dave Gibbs, deputy chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
The Anzac Day ceremony began with the falling in of the parade on Rust Ave at 5.30am, before the dawn service and the formal ceremony finished by 6.45am. It was one of many across Northland to honour the fallen and those who served.
People flocked to view the names on the cenotaph and pen tributes to those gone before.
Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai was the first to lay a wreath at the cenotaph followed by Whangarei RSA president Chris Harold and RSA Trust chairman Archie Dixon.
Mr Harold said those ex-servicemen buried at sea and at cemeteries throughout the world were held in high esteem and they must always be honoured.
He said people must realise that those who fought at Gallipoli in April 1915 were not only Kiwis and Australian fighters but were also from Britain, France and Turkey.
"If you ever get a chance to visit Gallipoli, do go there. What they faced during the war will bring you to tears."
Mr Harold mentioned the role women played in the military and air force by carrying out duties such as nursing, signalling, and transport drivers. Some, he said, were close to men who fought on the front line.
"We must always honour those who served in conflict, then and now. All New Zealanders should be proud of them. We must never forget them. We will remember them forever. Lest we forget," Mr Harold said.
Among those who got up early for the dawn ceremony was Whangarei mother-of-two Fiona Cowlishaw whose son Reid marched as part of the squadron e-cadet. The fact her grandfather, Cyril Mora, served in the air force in WWII added more significance to the occasion.
"It's important for kids to know about the first and second World War. We watch documentaries of those wars before attending the dawn ceremony."
Paul Wilson has never missed a dawn ceremony in Whangarei since he was about 5 years old and paid tribute to his father Dick Wilson who served in WWII. Mr Wilson senior, who died 10 years ago, was also the flagbearer during the dawn ceremony in central Whangarei.
Also among the crowd was South African couple Deepak and Jessie Veerasamy. Their son Akshay, 15, and daughter Amara, 12, both marched in the dawn parade. Akshay is in the air force cadet.
"It [dawn ceremony] means a lot to my son because he wants to be in the air force," Mr Veerasamy said.