Nine-year-old Kalani Grimwood's great-great-uncle was one of the lucky ones. He came home from the war.
To young Kalani, his uncle Joseph McAuley is a hero, one of the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who have served their country in war.
His uncle's story is like countless others - he started his campaign in Egypt but was captured by enemy forces and held as a prisoner of war in Italy during World War II.
Yesterday, the Riverton youngster wore his uncle's medals with pride as he and his mother joined several hundred other people gathered for the Anzac Day dawn service at Riverton.
They were among the thousands gathering elsewhere in the south to mark the day.
About 4000 people braved the cold as dawn broke at the Invercargill cenotaph and tears flowed as the strains of The Last Post played, and the Australian and New Zealand national anthems played.
Later in the morning about 100 people gathered at the Eastern cemetery to place poppies on the graves of returned servicemen.
In Bluff, the sound of bagpipes heralded daybreak as about 100 people gathered for the dawn service.
As the rain turned the ground to mud, those at the service listened as Father Hamish Wyatt spoke of the reality of life in the trenches.
The stories continued to flow as the service moved to the Bluff RSA.
For people attending the service at the Tisbury Hall, the occasion was bittersweet. It was a time for remembering, but also a time for saying goodbye - this was the last year the hall would host Anzac Day services, and a symbolic curtain was pulled across the hall's honour roll.
In Winton, the crowd stood several rows deep while the few remaining World War II diggers took up the front positions at Anzac Oval.
Life-long mates and World War II veterans Reg Small and Ray Hawkins said it was great to see so many young people taking on the Anzac Day spirit.
Ex-servicemen Nick Phillips and Craig Flynn were among the new generation of Kiwis who have served their country.
"I served as a peacekeeper in Bougainville and then east Timor. I think it's important the younger soldiers keep marching at Anzac Day," Flynn said.
More than 100 people attended a mid-morning service at the Ohai Nightcaps RSA, gathering to lay wreaths and listen as Reverend Ivan Smith told them New Zealand had a strong humanitarian perspective, thanks to the Anzac experience.
At Tuatapere, more than 200 people attended the morning service held at the Tuatapere RSA Memorial hall, while those attending services in Eastern Southland had the realities of war brought home when resident Gloria McHutchon spoke of the hundreds of war cemeteries she had seen during visits to sites ravaged by World War I.
About 1000 people watched and listened in Te Anau to the mid-morning Anzac Day service, a highlight of which was the sight of a WWII tank, on loan from the New Zealand Army Museum, rumbling along the street.
While it was a wet start to the day in Queenstown, the rain did little to deter the hundreds who turned out for the resort's dawn service.
Queenstown RSA president Dave Geddes said about 600 had attended, braving one of the wettest Anzac days he could remember.
About 500 people attended the dawn service in Lake Hawea, and the Lake Wanaka Centre was bursting at the seams.
In Cromwell, more than 500 people attended the morning service at the Memorial Hall, while in Roxburgh, flags from both Australia and New Zealand flew as the crowd gathered at the band rotunda. Among the marchers were 100-year-old Hec Clare and 90-year-old Les Tombs.
Alexandra-Clyde RSA senior vice-president Jock Braidwood told a packed Clyde memorial hall " the time will come when younger people will have to ensure the Anzac tradition stays alive."
About 600 people turned out for the service, which was marred by heavy rain forcing the service indoors, but the sun later made an appearance as hundreds gathered in Alexandra.
In South Otago, the involvement of younger generations in Anzac Day commemorations was clear, as pupils from South Otago High School were among the guest speakers at the service in Balclutha, and in Kaitangata where three children, one wearing his grandfather's war medals, shared a poem with the crowd.
- The Southland Times
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