ANZAC DAY: At 93, parade is Jim’s last hurrah

WHEN the width of yesterday’s Wodonga march was narrowed just before it began, thousands of onlookers scrambled to the other side of the road for the best position.

The change did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or those who marched the one-kilometre Havelock-Lawrence-Hovell streets route, already a break in tradition, thanks to roadworks.

World War II veteran Jim Mooney, 93, one of the oldest still marching, has fewer veteran mates every year.

“We’re getting too old,” he said. “It’ll be my last year — it’s my back.”

Mr Mooney, a Kerang farm boy when he joined, served in the Middle East and was later a prisoner of war in Germany’s Hohenfels camp for those who refused to work.

“I left in April ’40 and got back in July ’45 — my wife was still there,” he laughed.

Mr Mooney reckoned national service training would be good for the young and prove popular.

“You might be surprised at the number who would join,” he said.

Veterans of Korea, South Vietnam, Iraq, East Timor and Afghanistan joined the World War II servicemen and women in the parade.

There were also contingents of serving soldiers from Bonegilla and Bandiana and community groups, marching to the music of the Albury-Wod- onga Pipes and Drums and Wodonga Brass.

Wodonga RSL president Kevyn Williams described the turnout as “phenomenal”.

“The streets are lined three or four deep from the RSL,” he said.

“The crowd’s growing every year and it just makes us wonder what we’re going to do for the centenary next year.”

After the march, thousands of people squeezed into Woodland Grove, spilling on to High and Hovell streets, for the Anzac Day commemorative service.

It included prayers led by Pastor Ben Hall and an address by Major Angela Dent, second in command of the Army School of Health at Bonegilla.

“I haven’t regretted joining at 17 for a single moment,” she said, 25 years on.

Major Dent spoke of “enormous sacrifices” that allowed Australians to enjoy the lives they had and pointed out the term Anzac had often been misunderstood and was not about glorifying war.

“I feel the term Anzac has transcended the physical meaning to become a spirit, an inspiration which embodies the qualities of courage, discipline, sacrifice, self-reliance and, in Australian terms, that of mateship and a fair go,” she said.

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