Stepping out ... veterans at last year's Anzac Day Coffs Harbour march.
Stepping out ... veterans at last year's Anzac Day Coffs Harbour march.

March order is out of step

THE Anzac message could change to 'We will forget' if veterans' relatives are forced to the rear of Anzac Day parades, according to a local RSL president.

News that relatives of veterans will be asked to form at the rear of the Sydney Anzac Day parade has our local RSL fuming, who claim any member of the Coffs Coast community can take part in the local march on Friday.

Coffs Harbour RSL Sub Branch president, Bob Payne, said the point of Anzac Day is for every person to remember the Anzac heritage.

"The whole community must be involved to hand this legacy on," Mr Payne said.

"Do they want our memorials to read 'we will forget'?"

A directive from the NSW Returned Services League has asked descendants of veterans to form up at the rear of the Sydney march, rather than alongside the unit in which their relative served.

State RSL president, Don Rowe, told Fairfax Radio the decision was made in consultation with veterans.

"The veterans themselves are feeling that they're just being pushed aside...with the influx of descendants marching in their units," Mr Rowe said.

But Mr Payne said local veterans love having their grandchildren and children marching alongside them.

"You'd find 99 per cent of veterans couldn't care less, wouldn't think they'd been pushed aside by kids," he said.

"And it's not just kids who march, because there's blokes in their 30s wearing their ancestor's medals with pride.

"We shouldn't be discouraging anyone from taking part in Anzac Day."

Mr Payne said a five-year campaign by the Coffs Harbour Sub Branch to involve more community members is under threat following the directive for the Sydney march, with the local office inundated with phone calls from residents asking whether they can march at all.

"We won't deny anyone the opportunity to march in our parade, if they're related to a descendant or not," he said.

"I don't care if one person or a hundred and one turns up - everyone can march in Coffs Harbour."

He said the only protocol they ask people to observe relates to the wearing of war medals, with veterans wearing theirs on the left and relatives wearing medals on the right.

The main service for Coffs Harbour will form up at Park Avenue at 8.30am on Friday.


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