“If I can, I will,” were the determined words of Stawell’s Irene Young, a 97-year-old war veteran who led the town’s commemorative Anzac Day march down Main Street on Tuesday.
In a wheelchair and recalling the darkest moments of war, Ms Young proceeded down Main Street behind the flag bearers and led a procession of soldiers, musicians and passionate residents.
The determination mirrored the courage of Australian soldiers who died on the battlefields of Gallipoli in 1915 and other Australians who have died in overseas conflict.
“I may be the oldest war veteran in the area, but if I can still lead the march I will,” Ms Young said.
“Anzac Day is so sad, it was just a waste of human life, they were so young.”
Ms Young spent five years in the army and said she had “some of the best experiences of her life”.
But she also recalled horrific memories which have stayed with her forever.
“A lot of sad things happened,” she said.
“Nurses gunned down on the beach, all the boys coming back with their brains rattled and all the boys crippled and blinded in the hospitals.
“I used to think what life would be like for them after this.”
Ms Young also recalled her highlight during her time in the army, when she was a stewardess for the highest ranking official at the time.
“We were at a cocktail party during WWII at the Victoria Barracks in St Kilda,” she said.
“I was the stewardess for the leader of the army at that point and I had to follow him around for the whole night with a tray of all these glasses of whisky.
“At the end of the night he shook my hand and thanked me for doing a great job, it was such a thrill and definitely a highlight.”
Stawell RSL president Geoff Reading said Anzac Day mornings was for remembrance and Anzac Day afternoons was celebrating the freedom they gave us, as he fought back tears.
“The crowd is so sincere, it is a pleasure to be part of it here in Stawell,” he said.
“The services were well attended, it has just been superb and a great way to remember the fallen.”
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