As the sun rose over the Coral Sea, thousands of veterans, serving soldiers and airforce members and their families watched Scott Morrison lay a wreath in remembrance of those who went before them.
At the Townsville Anzac Day dawn service the prime minister focused on the Defence forces of today, saying that while the past few years have been about marking the centenary of the First World War, now thoughts turn to its aftermath.
“What is it like for those who have returned numbed by the carnage that cannot be unseen?” he said.
“What is it like for those whose war did not end with the declaration of peace?
“What is it like for the families whose loved ones now lay at rest on the other side of the world, how do they go on?”
Townsville is home to one of Australia’s largest military bases – and sits in the nation’s most marginal federal electorate, Herbert, held by Labor’s Cathy O’Toole by 0.02 per cent.
Mr Morrison spoke of his grandfather, a WWII veteran, and two soldiers killed in the Afghanistan conflict, Private Benjamin Ranaudo, and Sergeant Brett Till.
“Our heroes don’t just belong to the past; they live with us today,” he said.
“They are a generation who also deserve to be remembered and honoured here today.
“The call of the original Anzacs echoes on their chests today.”
Two of those currently serving their nation, Matt Bright and Ethan Caccianiga, they see the dawn service as the most important part of Anzac Day, with the rest of the day turned over to socialising.
“It’s the Last Post, it’s the laying wreaths, it’s the minute silence, everything about it – the shiver up the spine,” Mr Bright said.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill also focused on returned servicemen and women and what the nation owes to them.
“Too often the real damage to our troops only reveals itself when the battle is over,” she said.
“As Australians, we do not leave our mates behind on the field of battle and this should not change upon coming home.”
Townsville woman Kim Smit teared up when asked what brought her to the dawn service.
Her father was a career soldier who served in Vietnam and her daughter’s partner is currently in the army, having done two tours to Afghanistan and one to Timor.
“So very, very strong feelings about today,” she said
“It’s really important to remember why we have the freedom we have and I hope it never gets forgotten.”
After the dawn service, Mr Morrison attended a gunfire breakfast hosted by the Townsville RSL.