Thousands of people at Anzac Day commemorations in Whangarei were urged to personally thank war veterans and to help them recover, particularly from post traumatic stress disorder.
More than 1000 students in the Air Corps, youth and scout groups were among more than 7500 who gathered on a brisk morning for the dawn ceremony at the Cenotaph at Whangarei's Laurie Hall Park yesterday.
The ceremony began with the parade falling in outside the Whangarei RSA on Rust Ave at 5.45am, before the dawn service and the formal ceremony finished about 6.45am.
It was one of many across Northland to honour fallen soldiers.
Whangarei RSA president Chris Harold reminded the crowd that they must never lose sight of the courage shown by the young men and women who died in the atrocities of war.
He said there were veterans who had returned home to Northland who continued to hide their scars.
"I ask you to approach them, shake their hands and thank them for the service they have given to our country and to you all."
Harold said there were some who thought that when we commemorated Anzac Day, we glorified war but no war veteran would think along those lines.
"Like all wars, it was not good, terrible things happened, people were wounded and people died on both sides. It is a sad commentary on human nature that often we fail to make the most of peace to change what needs to be changed."
Sadly, Harold lamented, there was no recognition of post traumatic stress disorder
in those days of the conflicts.
He referred to the theme of this year's Poppy Day which was: "Not all Wounds Bleed" which meant a lot of wounds that returned servicemen suffered were not immediately noticeable.
The focus, he said, would be on mental health needs of veterans and recent ones in particular to ensure a smooth transition to civilian life.
Harold pleaded with people at the dawn ceremony to let their local RSA know of any war veteran they felt was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
"Please do this for our men and women who have or are trying to return to normal civilian life for it will help those individuals. People helping people, that is the RSA motto and we wish to live up to it."
Chief guest Brigadier Rob Krushka of the New Zealand Defence Force said it was
heartening to see both young and old take part in the Anzac story that touched a deep heart in all of us.
"We should also take time to reflect on the meaning of those sacrifices and how they influenced the world we live in today."
Wreaths were laid by Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai, MPs Dr Shane Reti and Shane Jones, members of the armed forces and students.
Whangarei RSA vice president Kevin Peachey was pleased with the turnout, especially the presence of so many primary and secondary students.
"More and more young people are getting interested and I think it's more to do with an increase in awareness these days about the significance of Anzac. They help the RSA a lot and some were flagbearers this morning. A lot of them are in the Cadet Force as well."