Emotions raw at Byron Bay Anzac Day march
EVEN AS the Byron Bay Anzac Day parade marshalled outside the Top Pub, under brilliant skies, amid laughing children and mates catching up, emotions were still raw.
Sitting quietly with his family in the shade of a tree was a well dressed young veteran with a chest full of medals.
Two years ago, after deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he returned home to Byron Bay after suffering a breakdown that spelled the end his career in the army.
He didn't want to be identified, but today he was preparing to take part in his first Anzac Day Parade, another step on his long road to recovery.
Nearby, sitting astride a vintage army motorcycle was Vietnam veteran, David Lawrence from the Byron Bay RSL Sub-Branch.
Today he was bustling around distributing sprigs of rosemary and organising the marchers, but from 1970- 71 he served as a machine gunner in his section.
Aside from wearing his own brace of medals, he also proudly wears his father's medals.
With tears coming to his eyes and a catch in his voice he talks about his father service to the country.
"He was in the Special Duties Squadron attached to the RAAF during World War Two," Mr Lawrence said.
"He was very lucky to be alive; he flew 42 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
"Some of the things he did would raise the hairs on the back of your neck; he was a very skilful pilot who had a lot of luck."
Like many other Australian Vietnam War veterans, it has also been a long road back for Mr Lawrence.
The war was so politically controversial at the time that its veterans were shunned from taking part in remembrance ceremonies until a formal Welcome Home parade in 1887.
"It took me a while to get myself together after Vietnam," said Mr Lawrence.
"I'm 64 and happy to be here today representing my father, my family and my country."