ANZAC Day memorial services were well attended across Narrandera.
Grong Grong’s march and service purportedly had roughly 100 people in attendance, including travellers who were staying overnight in Grong Grong and chose to join the community in marking the day.
The graveside service at the Narrandera Cemetery was a more quiet affair, but no less poignant. A catafalque party, made up of RAAF personnel, attended the service.
The main march, which left the Ex-servicemen’s Club at 10.45am, was led by Mick Batchelor of the Gundagai 7th Light Horse Brigade. Mr Batchelor also brought a pack horse, and was explaining the equipment and the weight that was carried by the Waler horses during the Palestine campaign during WWI.
The catafalque party also took place in the march, and were integral to the ceremony.
The march was not just a time for returned service personnel. The bulk of the marchers were children. Bright Horizons Day Care, Narrandera Preschool, Narrandera Public School, East Infants School, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Narrandera High School and St Francis Leeton all had delegations in the march.
The VRA were also represented, as were the Air League and the NSW Fire and Rescue. The Girls Brigade and the Scouts also marched to the Memorial Gardens.
The ceremony began with a short welcome by Narrandera RSL Sub- Branch President Peter Simpson. The hymn “The Recessional” was sung by Renee Galvin, with the Narrandera Orchestra, conducted by Fiona Caldarevic.
The ANZAC address was given by Father Bradley Rafter.
“Many of you know me as Father Rafter, I work at St Mel’s. What most of you don’t know is that once a week, usually on a Friday, I put on a green uniform and go to Kapooka. There, I get called Padre.
“When I was a kid I wanted to either be a policeman or a soldier. I would play soldiers in the backyard with my best mate.
“My best mate went on to become a soldier, but while I looked into it, something in me hesitated.
“Little did I know that 15 years later, God would have another role for me. I would join the army as a chaplain.”
Fr Rafter said that when he began his role as a Padre, he consulted with a friend.
“He said, good. There’s a great need for padres, because people join the army for to get fit, and to have a career. It’s not until we put them through basic training that they realise that they could be deployed to Afghanistan, or Iraq. They realise that their lives could be put in danger, and they need someone to talk to.”
As Fr Rafter is a part of the army, he had to undertake training. He recently completed six weeks of officer training at Duntroon.
“It occurred to me we still have war heroes among us. These people have been to Afghanistan, Iraq. We have men and women who are risking their lives for us in Afghanistan, in 2018.
“There was once a man, 2000 years ago, who said “no greater love has man who lays down his life for his friends.
“Let us all remember this sacred day, for those who served before, those among us who still serve, and the repose for the souls of the dead.”
The service ended on a slightly sour note. Mr Simpson pointed out that RSL was unable to sell poppies and other items for fundraising.
“The RSL is in a bit of turmoil at head office. It is hoped that we can have poppies to sell for the Invictus Games, which will be held in October.”