A 100-year-old World War II veteran has gone some way towards receiving the honour that he and his comrades deserve this year, despite the global coronavirus pandemic.
Henry “Corky” Caldwell, who has not missed an Anzac Day parade in 75 years, told ABCNews that his family and an online community supported him through his journey to make sure he didn’t miss out on this year’s procession in spite of cancellations due to coronavirus restrictions.
The decision to cancel gatherings around the country this year shocked this centenarian Digger from the New South Wales north coast, but his family and an online community rallied around him to make sure he didn't miss out.
“It's very important. I've been going to it ever since the war finished,” Corky said.
Suzanne Lofts, Mr Caldwell's daughter, says Anzac Day means much more than just a parade for her father.
“He does get very emotional about Anzac Day, he often has a tear when he lays his wreath because it reminds him of all his mates who have passed,” Ms Lofts explained.
“All his granddaughters and grandsons come from Sydney, Newcastle, and Brisbane to celebrate with him.
“So, he was fairly gutted when Anzac Day wasn't going to happen this year.”
Ms Lofts took to Facebook to voice her father’s disappointment about the Anzac Day procession being cancelled – and the reaction she received was something she could not have imagined.
Thousands of people took to the comments to thank the veteran for his service to his country and asked his family if there was anything that they could do to make the day more special for him.
The online community sent in cards and paintings to Mr Caldwell.
Phil Heesch from Grafton was made aware of the post from a friend who told him “that there was a very disappointed World War II Digger in Grafton who wanted a ride in a jeep because Anzac Day was cancelled.
“Turns out that it's the same guy — Corky — who I take every year in our parade in Grafton,” explained Mr Heesch.
Mr Heesch offered to take Mr Caldwell on his own private, socially distanced parade through the streets of Grafton two weeks prior to Anzac Day, so the veteran could safely lay a wreath at the cenotaph.
Ms Lofts says she grew up with an endless amount of war memorabilia and photographs of her father during the war.
“He talks a lot about his war years, never the serious side of it but the funny, exciting side of it,” Ms Lofts said.
Mr Caldwell was just 21 when he enlisted in the war and was assigned to a unit of engineers who works in an Ordnance workshop near Cairo, Egypt.
Before he shipped out, he armed himself with a then state-of-the-art Kodak pocket camera.
The veteran worked long, tireless hours where he repaired tanks damaged in battle and ambulance.
In 2008, Mr Caldwell was given the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the community of the Clarence Valley region.
In his 100 years of living, the war veteran admits he has lived through some difficult times, and as a child growing up through the Great Depression, his family was forced to live off rabbits and ducks.
Food was scarce and “rationed”. Mr Caldwell says his mother “used to talk about how hard it was to buy food in the shops.”
Watching people panic-buy through the coronavirus pandemic has been a surprise for the veteran who believes “people are panicking too much.”
“I think if they look after themselves, live quietly do the right thing, it [the virus] won't spread.”
This article originally appeared on Over60.