IT was one of the biggest turnouts to Grafton's Anzac Day memorial service in recent memory when an estimated 2000 people paid their respects to the Diggers at Memorial Park on a cold autumn morning.
Larger than normal numbers were also seen at Grafton's dawn service where Corporal Zeek Wilkinson moved the crowd with his heartfelt speech (see page 4).
Grafton's 97th anniversary civic commemoration of the Gallipoli landing began with a march down Prince St led by surviving Second World War veterans followed by the descendants of fallen Diggers who proudly displayed the medals earnt by their forebears.
Also marching were the local army and naval cadets, Grafton RSL sub-branch marching band and the biggest contingent, pupils from primary and high schools in the area.
An Anzac dedication by Clarence Valley Deputy Mayor Craig Howe kicked off the ceremony.
"Our Anzac legend, which embodies the values of courage, determination and mateship, defines our national character," Cr Howe said. "It is the responsibility of all of us to continue to encourage young Australians to seek a greater understanding of the Anzac spirit and encourage them to ensure it is never lost."
Students from Grafton Public, Westlawn Public, Grafton High and McAuley Catholic College addressed the crowd with speeches outlining the meaning Anzac Day held for each of them.
McAuley student Kailyn Wake told the crowd of her emotional pilgrimage to the Western Front with the school last year.
Kailyn's great-great-grand-uncles, three brothers, all served on the Western Front of the First World War and two of them died as a result.
She choked up as she quoted her great-great-grand-uncle John Elliott's final letter to his sister: "If anything does happen to me, don't worry about it because I am trusting we will meet in the next world where wars are not heard of".
Honorary secretary of the Grafton RSL sub-branch Dennis Benfield said the sub-branch had asked young people to speak at Anzac day ceremonies for a number of years as a way to ensure the future of the commemoration.
"Realistically, us veterans aren't going to be appearing in such numbers in the next decade," he said. "They (the students) give a whole different outlook of what Anzac day is all about."