It was without a doubt an Anzac Day with a difference in Mullumbimby this year.
The proud and steady ‘De Niro’ stepped out to lead the parade carrying Chris Gort in the uniform of the 15th Light Horse Brigade, a jet from Amberley did an ear-splitting flyover, and Mahikitai Piripi sang the New Zealand National Anthem in Maori as a rousing finale.
Despite the heat, a big crowd gathered to cheer on the marchers and to gather round the Cenotaph for the solemn commemoration, with RSL sub-branch president Joe Walsh reporting that once again the number of those attending had increased.
Army chaplain Padre Lyle Cowell gave the Anzac Day address, noting that he was there with only remnants of his regiment, since many were serving in either Afghanistan or East Timor.
He spoke of his experience of conducting the dawn service in Hellfire Pass in Thailand two years previously, a place where so many had lost their lives as a result of brutal treatment meted out to those who worked on the infamous Burma Railway.
“A number of young Aussie tourists came up from the beach to honour those who died,” he said, “and in an especially emotional commemoration pride of place was given to five ex-POWs who had made the journey with considerable effort.”
He spoke of some of the lesser known facts of Australia’s involvement in international conflicts – of the 6000 Australians buried in Greece, of the many airmen who lie buried in small country churchyards all over Europe, and of the time when war came to our doorstep when Darwin was bombed 64 times.
“I was born in paradise here in the valley,” said Padre Lyle, “and I was named after another local lad, Lyle Gardner who died in 1943 on the Burma Railway at the age of just 25.”
At the close of the ceremony many Kiwis and non-Kiwis came to shake the hand of Mahikitai Piripi, to thank him for his moving contribution, while kids flocked to pat ‘De Niro’.
“It was just a brilliant day,” said Joe Walsh.
“I loved every minute of it.”
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