Thousands of people gathered at Anzac Day services around Taranaki yesterday to pay their respects to those who gave their lives for peace.
Hundreds filed through New Plymouth's streets in the dark, making their way to the cenotaph for the dawn parade.
The large crowd of young and old spoke in hushed tones as they waited for the service to begin.
In his opening address, Reverend Albie Martin asked the crowd to remember those who had fallen on battlefields over the years.
"Thanks for the peace and security for which we enjoy," Martin said.
He said the spirit of those who had fallen lived on in each of us.
Martin blessed those who were still working for peace in countries torn apart by violence and conflict.
Albert Charles Pillette (Mick), who served with medical units in the desert and through Italy, said he felt humbled to attend the service.
"Damned lucky, I'm getting old," the 96-year-old said.
Mick said Anzac Day was a time to remember old friends and fallen comrades.
"I lost quite a few of them over there."
He was delighted to see the large number of young people at the service: "It's great to see them, the young people here, it's amazing."
His grandson, Brad Pillette-Hughes, said it was an honour to attend a dawn service with him.
"It's just a privilege to have him around for as long as we have, to hear the stories and it's lucky he came back really," he said.
"We just have got no idea of what they went through."
John "Horse" McLeod said he felt privileged to lead the parade to the cenotaph.
"In my home city it is a very proud moment to actually lead the parade," the former member of New Zealand's elite SAS unit said.
An emotional McLeod said Anzac Day was a time to reflect on those who had given their lives in conflicts and those who were still fighting in various parts of the world.
"The sacrifices that they make for freedom, not only for New Zealanders but for other peoples in the world."
McLeod said the memory of fallen comrades was still vivid in his mind.
"It's like that they are still here and still with us and I picture them as they were."
National Party MP Jonathan Young said as the father of an 18-year-old son he found himself thinking about how many parents had lost children to war.
"The young men and women who never had the privilege of growing up in New Zealand," Young said.
A piper played as wreaths were laid at the cenotaph.
A citizens service was later held at 10am at the cenotaph.
In North Taranaki, services were also held at Waitara, Inglewood and Urenui.
DAY OF REMEMBRANCE FROM MOUNTAIN TO COAST
South and Central Taranaki will never forget.
Thousands gathered at 10 Anzac Day services from the mountain to the coast yesterday in honour of those who served their province and their country.
In Hawera, more than 800 people encircled about 200 returned servicemen, members of the armed services, firefighters, police and schoolchildren who laid wreaths at the War Memorial Arch.
Among them was 9-year-old Mya Tohia, who proudly wore her great-grandfather's medals.
"He [William Allan] has a really bad leg and I wanted to do it for him."
So after directions on how to pin them on and a few stories of his time in the navy during World War II and the Korean conflict, Mya rose before first light to honour our soldiers and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"The medals are very heavy."
South Taranaki RSA president Graeme Harvie said seeing so many young faces in the crowd warmed his heart.
"It shows the respect that these people have," he said.
"It is an excellent thing that the youth today are taking an active part in these services."
In Eltham, a contingent of more than 50 returned servicemen, bagpipers and citizens marched to the town's War Memorial Gates and the waiting crowd.
For Shakira Nicholas it was the second service of the day and another chance to perform The Last Post on a 100-year-old bugle.
"It's pretty special really," she said.
"There is a lot of pressure when I'm playing because it's not about me, it's about the people standing in front of me."
However, Nicholas did have her own cheering squad with her mum, Val Millington, proudly watching her play.
"I'm not just watching my daughter play, I'm thinking about my own family who served.
"My grandfather and great-grandfather all played the bugle and they served."
Meanwhile, in Stratford it was heavy armour that led the town's late-morning parade.
By 10.30am hundreds had lined the streets to catch a glimpse of an M3 Stuart Hybrid light tank and a convoy of war-era military vehicles that rumbled by.
After the parade a civic service was held in the town's War Memorial Centre.
Then at 11am, Alton's population swelled to about 500 as people gathered to remember the 21 men they lost during World War I and II.
The cenotaph erected 91 years ago in their memory was recently moved to the nearby Coronation Hall grounds in an effort to ensure easy access.
- Taranaki Daily News
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