Grafton says ?thanks
By Sally Gordon
Wearing sombre faces and dark suits laden with medals, Grafton's surviving war heroes yesterday marched along Prince Street to the skirl of bagpipes in commemoration of Anzac Day.
A crowd of more than 300 people greeted the town's servicemen and women with heartfelt applause as they entered the manicured grounds of Memorial Park.
As the veterans took their place, the audible homage could still be heard down the main street.
Onlookers formed a massive circle of honour around Grafton's cenotaph to begin commemorations. The 20-minute mid-morning service involved a mix of traditional ritual and youthful emotion with wreath-laying and prayer interspersed with moving musical interludes and student poetry.
The Clarence Valley Council mayor, Ian Tiley, told onlookers that every Australian city, town and district was in some way touched by the pain of World War One (See transcript of speech on this page).
"At the time of World War One our nation, of barely five million people, conceded the death of 60,000 men and boys," he said.
"More than one percent of the nation was killed in the Great War and two per cent of Australian manhood was agonisingly sacrificed over four years."
The mayor also praised today's youth for enthusiastically embracing and carrying on the Anzac tradition.
Many in the crowd were moved to tears well before the emotive sounds of The Last Post when Clarence Valley Anglican School student Rosie Peterson told the audience what Anzac Day meant to her.
"When I think of Anzac Day I think of bravery and sacrifice and a story from a long time ago that still sounds so very, very real," she said.
"I think of the gift of freedom and something deep inside of me wants to say thank you."