Veterans feel suffering past and present

In the silent darkness of Sydney’s main Anzac Day dawn service, thousands of veterans and families stood to remember wars past and present.


Paul Fenton’s chest, with medals on the left and right, said it all.

“These are Dad’s from the Second World War and these are mine from Vietnam and New Guinea,” he told AAP on Monday.

Mr Fenton said there was good reason to teach children about the wars Australia has fought in.

“Hopefully we’ll never have to go through war again,” he said.

But of course, Mr Fenton added, Australia’s current participation in world conflicts meant that was wishful thinking.

“From day one, it’s never stopped and I think to the end of time it’ll keep going and going,” Mr Fenton said.

“Mankind will just keep fighting for one thing or the other.”

Mr Fenton’s friend Graeme Doherty, 55, came to the service to support him, but was also pondering the cost of war on his own life.

Mr Doherty’s father was a supply driver in the New Zealand army and travelled widely during the Second World War through Egypt and Europe.

But when he came home, Mr Doherty said, his father had changed.

“It was hard for us kids because he was very tough. He could fly off the handle,” Mr Doherty said.

“He wasn’t an emotional, huggy sort of person. He just kept it all in. So we didn’t really know our father.”

The two friends said stoicism and the “stiff upper lip” had given way to a more emotional norm.

“Men know now that they can cry without being abused or feeling inferior,” Mr Fenton said.

“I can cry at the drop of a hat watching TV.”

The scars of warfare were visible on two Vietnamese ex-soldiers who lifted the ends of their trousers to show scars on their legs.

“We defended our freedom side by side with Australian troops and allied troops,” Xuan Lam said.

“I’ve got so many friends who were killed at that time.”

Sydney resident and air force veteran Kym Ryan said he had mixed feelings about Anzac Day.

“It’s important to commemorate rather than celebrate,” he said.

“I’d like to see a lot more done for young fellas that are coming back now from various conflicts in the world.”

The dawn service in Sydney’s Martin Place was attended by thousands, including NSW Premier Mike Baird, federal Liberal Party senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek and Sydney mayor Clover Moore.

The faces of World War I soldiers were projected onto the buildings in Martin Place, as well as images of church windows and poppies.

Event MC Lieutenant Colonel John Moore said the turnout was encouraging though not as big as last year.