It was an early start for Poatina resident Rod Holden and his sons Ed, 5, and Archie, 2.
They woke up at 4.30am and drove half an hour to gather with hundreds of people at Longford Cenotaph on Wednesday morning.
While this was Ed’s third dawn memorial service, it was the first time Archie sat in the dawning light to commemorate Australian servicemen and women who went to war.
“Surely everyone can get up early one day a year to understand why we live in a free country and mark their sacrifice,” Mr Holden said.
As a bell tolled over the Cenotaph, the Longford Anzac dawn service started.
The service has been conducted by Northern Midlands RSL Sub Branch president Geoff Leitch for the past 11 years.
He estimated about 800 people attended the service.
For many of the people attending the service, they only saw war on their television screens and heard about it through accounts from journalists, Mr Leitch said.
“During peace time, all war seems far removed from our lives.”
He spoke about the sacrifice Australians and New Zealanders made for their countries to protect what they saw as a threat to their values and beliefs.
“They gave our today so we may have our tomorrow,” Mr Leith said.
A breakfast of curried sausages, mince, and warm drinks was hosted at the Longford RSL Memorial Club.
The hall was packed with people warming their hands and mingling.
Sharon Stephens, Ben Coventry, Harry Coventry, 11, and Maddison Coventry, 14, all of South Australia, attended the service.
Harry said it was about respecting people who went to war.
Mr Coventry and Ms Stephens are involved in Scouts in South Australia.
Ms Stephens said the organisation encouraged young people to engage with the Anzac Day traditions by hosting all night vigils and adding to their heritage badges.
When young people went to war, they didn’t have the luxury of thermals or choosing to stay warm inside, she said.
Attending a dawn service on a cold, grey day was a “little price to pay”.
Mr Coventry said the dawn service appeared to be growing in its appeal.
“It’s almost a rite of passage,” he said.
“It’s to commemorate the service of our soldiers and nurses who have gone to war.”