SORROW’S floodgates opened and a mother’s sobs filled the pre-dawn air as an emotion-charged Anzac Day began at Currumbin yesterday. The ongoing heartbreak of losing her hero son became too much for Kaye Baird, who with husband Doug had taken a seat among the large crowd attending the dawn service.
The parents of Victoria Cross hero Corporal Cameron Baird, who was killed in Afghanistan in June last year, had steeled themselves for the first Anzac Day since their tragic loss.
Corporal Baird was shot during a battle in Afghanistan’s Khod Valley as he attempted to take an insurgent-held compound.
It was his eighth tour of duty and he had earned a reputation as a hardened warrior who often led from the front.
In February this year the family learned Corppl Baird was Australia’s 100th recipient of the VC, the highest military award for bravery.
It was the fourth time the VC had been awarded since Australian forces entered Afghanistan.
Corppl Baird often visited the Currumbin RSL when on the Gold Coast and was a friend to many in the local community.
Currumbin RSL president Ron Workman said the Baird family were warmly welcomed at the service.
“As you may have noticed, both Doug and Kaye were very upset when I said (Cameron’s) name and that was understandable,” Mr Workman said. “But it was great to see them here and attending our service.”
The parents laid a wreath to commemorate their son.
More than 15,000 had gathered at Elephant Rock for the Anzac dawn service.
People of all ages had woken early to be there in time for the 4.30am start.
The Currumbin event has grown to become one of the premier dawn services in Australia.
The strong community turnout was repeated across the city, with organisers labelling support at the services as “magnificent”.
At Currumbin, crowds lined the streets, footpaths and neighbouring balconies to catch a glimpse while two bagpipes players led a march that would start proceedings.
With the sound of the waves crashing in the shore, Currumbin RSL president Mr Workman told the crowd: “Today we stop to remember those who stood in the gap and served to protect us. No matter what they say, freedom is never free.”
The names of 41 veterans were read out by Mr Workman from the roll of honour, before veterans’ ashes were scattered out toat sea from surf boats.
For Gold Coast singers Sally Ann Guest and daughter Danielle Guest, the emotion of the ceremonywas almost too much.
The pair had been asked to sing the New Zealand national anthem at the service.
“It was the first time I had ever been to a dawn service and I was just overcome by all the sacrifice made,” Sally Ann said.
“My father-in-law and uncle both died in Gallipoli and it was just overwhelming.”
Elanora State School students released a dozen white doves into the sky and wreaths were laid by Mr and Mrs Baird, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey, police superintendent Jim Keogh and former Gold Coast Titans player Preston Campbell.
A three-volley salute was fired.
At Mudgeeraba, the expected crowd doubled in size, with local subbranch secretary Shakey Lake estimating 2000 people packed Elsie Laver Park for the dawn service.
Borrowed grandstands were filled and participants spilt over into the police station carpark for thechilly event.
Mr Lake said RSL members had been busy visiting 15 local schools in the lead-up to Anzac Day and their dedication had paid off in visitor numbers.
“It was magnificent and it’s only going to be bigger next year for the centenary,” he said.
At Southport, veterans were cheered by a predominantly young crowd, with hundreds of children and parents in attendance.
In his address, retiring army Lieutenant Colonel Kim Schneider brought his four-year-old son Ethan on stage to utter “Lest We Forget’’ at the end of his speech.
“I know that there is no doubt in your hearts and minds that today is especially significant,” he said.
“It’s a permanent reminder to the youth of today that our forefathers believed this wonderful country of ours was worth fighting for.
“Whatever you may think about the youth of today, they are the future so do not let it be lost through indifference or lack of responsibility.”
More than 2000 people flocked to the Coolangatta and Tweed Heads midmorning service, which began with a march from Goodwin Park to the memorial at Chris Cunningham Park.
Former navy Warrant Officer David Simpson gave a rousing Anzac address.
“I’d particularly like to thank the mums and dads of little Australians and New Zealanders for bringing them here this morning,” he said.