Afghanistan veteran Mitchell Judd at The Australian War Memorial after the National Ceremony. Photo: Rohan Thomson
For Private Mitchell Judd, marching with the Royal Australian Regiment along Anzac Parade today was a personally significant occasion.
The 22-year-old Queanbeyan resident, who served as a rifleman in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, was marching at home on Anzac Day for the first time since returning from duty.
‘‘It’s everything, it’s the biggest day of the year,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a chance to reflect on the boys that didn’t come home and our history.
‘‘I lost a mate recently who had come home from there [Afghanistan].
‘‘The experience of being over there, it’s hard to explain - it’s something you can’t really understand unless you’re there.’’
Record numbers of people rugged up against the wind and the cold for today’s ceremony marking the 97th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
About 3000 veterans, serving defence force members, families and school children made the march this morning in front of a crowd of 14,500 at the Australian War Memorial.
The ceremony followed this morning’s packed dawn service, which drew a record-breaking crowd of 25,000.
In his commemorative address, acting defence force chief Air Marshal Mark Binskin paid tribute to the qualities of courage, perserverance and fairness demonstrated by the Anzacs, which he said had been carried forward by generations of defence force personnel.
‘‘These qualities are Australian values – because, after all, our men and women in uniform are drawn from the Australian community and reflect what our society holds true,’’ he said.
‘‘I believe ANZAC Day continues to draw large crowds because the community can relate to the values displayed by our military, past and present, and because they recognise that the sacrifices of all involved in war have underpinned the stable, successful and modern nation that is Australia today.’’