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Anzac Day 2016: Long Tan remembered as Vietnam veterans lead Melbourne march

Vietnam War veterans have led Melbourne’s Anzac Day march for the first time as thousands of people lined St Kilda Road to pay their respects to those who served in the defence forces.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, in which 108 Australian troops held off more than 1,500 Viet Cong soldiers.

Earlier, more than 40,000 people gathered in chilly conditions at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance for the Anzac Day dawn service.

Current serving Defence men and women, along with veterans of past conflicts, gathered with public to mark the 101st anniversary of the ill-fated landings at Gallipoli.

Thousands of people walked solemnly through the city and along St Kilda Road towards the shrine, which began about 5:40am.

Veteran Ross Wilson said seven generations of his family served, and it was humbling to see so many people turn out.

“Anzac Day is more Australia Day than Australia Day is,” he said.

Up to 13,000 people also gathered at Torquay, on the state’s surf coast, for a service at Point Danger, the largest gathering in Victoria outside Melbourne.

The service had been at risk of being cancelled due to a lack of funds to pay for the facilities and security to cater for the growing numbers.

The event went ahead only because of the contribution of businesses and members of the community.

A focus of the beachside service was to commemorate the innocent victims of war as well as those who served.

Local man Robert Jones said the spectacular location of the service added to the memorial.

“It’s a beautiful place and I think holding a commemoration like this in a beautiful place helps to embed the memory,” he said.

Ian Gilbank, president of the Torquay RSL Club agreed that part of the reason the Torquay service was so popular was because of the spectacular outlook.

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“I look at it as like a mini Gallipoli, with the cliffs and the ocean and the beach below,” he said.

Anzac Day brings together veterans, both old and new

Matt and Nina Gelton travelled to Melbourne from Brisbane for the dawn service.

“I’m serving in the Army at the moment, so 27 years now, and been fortunate enough to serve overseas a number of times,” Mr Gelton said.

“I was in Iraq last year, been in Afghanistan, East Timor and Solomon Islands.

“The main thing I appreciate is seeing the older veterans, who always like to come over and have a bit of a chat to the younger guys.”

Russell Pearson brought his daughters along to the dawn service, saying his brother is currently serving in the Army.

“It starts to mean a little bit more when he goes overseas,” he said.

“My grandparents were in different wars. But once its your brother and he goes overseas and sees real action it comes close to home.”

Soldier “carry the burden” of their service

Speaking at the service, Vice Admiral David Johnson from the Royal Australian Navy said Anzac Day was the country’s “most solemn day of national reflection”.

“… commemorating the men and women who served and continue to serve our nation proudly, courageously and selflessly,” he said.

“Many paid the ultimate sacrifice, never to see our wonderful shores, their home, friends, family, or loved ones again.

“Others came home carrying the burden of their service, both physically and mentally.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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Tags: australian-politics , current-affairs , war
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