By Casey Neill

The Afghan community joined in Dandenong’s Anzac Day march this year for the first time.

They carried flags and wore traditional dress in the procession from the Dandenong RSL down Clow Street to the Pillars of Freedom on Wednesday 25 April.

Dandenong-Cranbourne RSL Sub-Branch president John Wells said he was proud to see flags from around the world held high during the march.

“This is not altogether the land of the original Anzacs anymore,” he said.

But he acknowledged that even when Australian and New Zealand troops started the Anzac legend in Gallipoli during World War I, 103 years ago, people from around the world called Australia home.

“You people are not just welcome, you’re part of the real Australia,” he said.

“This Anzac Day reflects the current Dandenong, not just old Dandenong.”

Afghan-Australian Civil Society Organisation co-founder Reza Andesha was one of two guest speakers.

“Anzac Day reminds us that war is to be avoided, but when necessary we must stand up for our values and protect our land and people,” he said.

He thanked the Australians who’d fought in Afghanistan and said their contribution would not be forgotten.

Andy Bishop filled the other guest speaking spot after Commander Frederick Menzies, aged 94, broke his ankle the night before.

Mr Bishop said he joined the army because he could get good wages. He was 16 years and three months old.

He sailed out of Australia at age 17.

Mr Wells described him as “a fair dinkum hero, a fair dinkum Anzac”. He said he didn’t rise through the ranks.

“He was important only in the sense that he did the cutting edge stuff,” he said.

“Andy carried a rifle and looked the enemy in the eye and ultimately paid a price for that.”

Mr Bishop was shot twice during his five years and eight months of service, “one in the lung and one in the thigh”.

“I don’t have much more to say but I love youse all,” he said to end his speech.

Pastor David Owen led the crowd in a prayer.

“When a man gets up and talks about twice being shot as if it’s a matter of fact, it touches me,” he said.

He said veterans wrote a blank cheque for Australia for up to his or her life.

The event followed a dawn service at the pillars and a Vietnamese service at the RSL earlier that day.

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