Ron Trevor and Jim Gresty both served in the Vietnam War but they did not meet until three years ago when they attended a Vietnam Veterans' Day at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.
They have been mates ever since and on Monday they were back at the Shrine, parking their personal mobility scooters side by side on the forecourt for the Remembrance Day service.
“We come here three times a year,” said Ron, of Sunshine, who served with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, arriving in Vietnam aged 19 and returning home before he was 21.
“Anzac Day, Vietnam Veterans Day and Remembrance Day. We’re always here.”
Jim, of Laverton, was in the Navy aboard HMAS Vendetta during the Vietnam War, which escorted the troop transport HMAS Sydney and operated as a mobile artillery support platform.
Jim is 70; Ron 71.
Should anyone have been concerned Remembrance Day might risk losing support 101 years since the Armistice ended the First World War, Monday’s service at the Shrine put such unease to rest, even if there have been no World War I veterans for years now and precious few from World War II.
About 4000 people attended, the old ritual barely changed in a century.
A veteran from the Korean War, Tom Parkinson, 86, read The Ode.
Rosie Hyett, 17, a student from Methodist Ladies College who is a recipient of the 2019 Premier’s Spirit of Anzac Prize, recited In Flanders Field.
The Shrine stood ageless on its hill, the city and its towers shining beneath a November sun.
The Last Post blew and floated away on the breeze.
A great artillery piece boomed, its blast bidding Melbourne to embrace a minute’s silence.
“We have stopped in silence 100 times now”, said Victorian Governor Linda Dessau, reminding the crowd of the first Remembrance Day in 1919, the idea of the silence coming from a young Melbourne journalist, Edward George Honey, who - while living in London - felt the day required solemnity.
It was the silence, too, that settled in the opening words of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's address to the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
"Silence. At last, silence. A silence from that day to this that beckons a prayer for a dawn of peace, and a lasting peace," the Prime Minister said.
At the Shrine, the Governor asserted that “On this day, it is about the silence that says so much.” It was a time to think of those who had served and gone before, and all those serving now, and “to wish them safe home”.
Across the park, a group of construction workers in hi-viz jackets stood atop a new building on St Kilda Road, their work set aside for that quiet minute.
A lone plane swooped, trailing smoke. Soldiers stood as if guarding a tomb, heads bowed, emu feathers fluttering from slouched hats.
The band members of the Royal Australian Air Force band in royal blue played martial and mourning music. Sailors in shining white marched.
The Melbourne Welsh Male Choir sang You’ll Never Walk Alone, the tenors tingling hearts.
And when it was done, right on noon, a shaft of sunlight settled upon the word “Love” etched into the remembrance stone at the heart of the great Shrine. As ever.
Jim Gresty and Ron Trevor fed power into their scooters and moved off.
Until the next time.