Oscar Comandari was five years old when his family fled war-torn El Salvador in the 1990s for a new life in Australia.
"It was just my mum, my three brothers and me," he said. "We lost our dad to the civil war [and] my mum lived through it all. She would tell us stories about some of the things she'd ... seen, and the family members that she'd lost."
"She was a teacher at the time, and the government were persecuting teachers, doctors, lawyers - anyone that could help the rebel cause - and so she applied to come to Australia as a political refugee.
"She wanted to get as far away from war as she could, so they sent us to Tasmania, and that's where I grew up."
Determined to give back to the country that had given him so much, Mr Comandari joined the Australian Army in 2009 and is now one of the veterans working on the Australian War Memorial's development project.
"The military has always been a part of our family history, so in a way I think it was always what I was going to do," he said.
Commandari deployed to Afghanistan in October 2012 with the 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, as part of Operation Slipper.
"My wife was in the army as well, and we had our first daughter just before I left," he said. "I got to see her for two weeks, and then I went away [for eight months]."
In Afghanistan, Mr Comandari was attached to an infantry platoon as an observer, providing security for diplomats and engineers.
"I'll never forget it," he said. "I arrived in Afghanistan just after we lost three Australian soldiers to an Afghan sergeant, so it was pretty intense to walk into a deployment knowing that three of our guys had just been taken away by someone we would consider a friend ...
"For the first couple of months, our base got rocketed maybe once or twice a week. You'd hear the alarms go off... and you'd have to rush to ... the safe areas.
"[The first time] you run quicker than you've ever run before - you are definitely sprinting - but you get used to it ...
"Within a couple of weeks I was going on at least five patrols a week.
"We'd go on patrol into the city of Tarin Kot ... and to begin with, the kids would always stay away from us, or look at us a bit differently, but then we went on one patrol, and for some reason I had a bag of lollies in my pocket.
"I'll never forget handing out lollies to these kids ... It was like they'd never tasted a lolly before, and to them it was like the greatest thing in the world ...
"I think we were making a big difference ... providing kids with schools, looking after the infrastructure, and just trying to make people's lives a little bit better ... It was a good feeling, and to me, that's what Australians do: we help each other, and we help other people, especially in a time of need."
Today, Mr Comandari is a construction manager with mechanical construction company Fredon and is proud to be involved in the memorial's development project.
"The war memorial to me is a sacred place ... I knew straight away I wanted to be here and work here," he said.
"When I come to the war memorial and I look at the names on the wall, and the pictures in the galleries, and the exhibitions ... I have that sense of mateship with them; you're one of me, I'm one of you, [and] that's why this place is so special."
As a young veteran, he believes it is important for the memorial to tell the stories of modern conflicts and the men and women who have served and continue to serve.
"We need to tell those stories, and we need to tell them now," he said.
"We always learnt about conflicts from the past - World War One, World War Two, Vietnam - and it shaped the person I became because I knew that other people had sacrificed and been through a lot for this country, and I think we need to continue that.
"We need the war memorial to show the rest of the country the things that people have done in their name, and the sacrifices that they've made - the time away from family, and the kids that are going to grow up without a mum or a dad.
"There's always been this fantastic recognition around our Anzacs, but our new veterans are Anzacs as well, so we need to tell their story ... and we need to get that out.
"What helped me was telling my story, and I had my wife to tell that story to, but some people don't have that ... so I think knowing that there is a place dedicated to telling their story will help veterans.
"It's not [just a building]; it represents so much more. It's in our DNA this place, and it's a part of who we are, so we need to invest in that, and maintain it, and develop it, and make it better and better.
"Knowing that I've done, even just a little bit, is amazing. It's another dream come true to know that I've contributed to something as special as the war memorial.
"I'm happy to be contributing; I'm proud to be contributing; and hopefully I've given back for the opportunities Australia has given me and my family.
"I miss [the army] every day, and I think I always will, for the rest of my life."
- To learn more about the memorial development visit awm.gov.au
- Claire Hunter is a writer for the Australian War Memorial.