ANZAC DAY: Tallangatta welcomes latest veteran

THE mountain backdrop and falling autumn leaves, provided 30 Diggers with a picturesque setting for Tallangatta’s march and service.

Leading them proudly, carrying the national flag, was Matthew Cleland back in his hometown for his first Anzac Day since serving in Afghanistan in 2012 and last year.

“I thought it would be nice to come home for the first one,” he said.

The signalman said it was harder to attend after serving overseas.

“We had an American member die who I was quite close to, so it is emotional for me,” he said.

“It’s a good time for me to reflect and a good part of the healing process.”

Mr Cleland, who’s now based at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney, said his mother had joined him at Tangambalanga’s dawn service.

“My mother cried when I was first deployed,” he said.

“It’s important to keep it alive, to recognise those who have fought — both women and men — and the families who support them.”

About 250 people gathered to watch the poignant service as the flag swayed in the breeze and children played quietly on the lawn.

Major Lisa-Jo Laing, who lost her father in Vietman, told the crowd the term Anzac had transcended the physical world to become a spirit.

“An inspiration that embodies the qualities of courage, discipline, sacrifice, self-reliance and, in Australian terms, that of mateship,” she said.

“These days we don’t glorify war — all we ask is for the simple recognition of the sacrifice and commitment and unselfish devotion by those men and women who served for our country.”

Tallangatta World War II veteran Keith Kimball, 89, fought in the airforce’s 5ACS squadron from 1943 to 1946 in the Pacific Islands.

“I like to come because my father was a World War I chap and I just like showing up myself,” he said.

Another Tallangatta World War II veteran Bob Giltrap, also 89, said is was a wonderful day.

“People are good. They show a lot of respect for the returned soldiers,” he said.

“It’s a very important day for us Diggers.”

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