What Anzac Day means to Bronson Harrison

Anzac Day 2014 in the Illawarra: LIVE BLOG

RUGBY LEAGUE

Like everyone else either side of the Dragons-Roosters divide on Anzac Day, Bronson Harrison will pause to reflect.

Thoughts will turn to those who served Australia and New Zealand in combat while the Last Post echoes throughout an eerily quiet Allianz Stadium.

Then he'll remember Uncle Dickie, the Vietnam vet, who like many from the same war, was afflicted by Agent Orange.

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"He didn't talk a lot about the war and kept a lot to himself," Harrison said. "[But] the family still hold [his service] very dear to them.

"They go on the walks and march for him out of respect and we're all very proud."

To this day, the St George Illawarra back-rower has only gleaned a little knowledge of Gunner Richard Gwynne's history in Vietnam before his death almost three years ago.

He reminds himself in the days leading up to each Anzac Day clash what his uncle achieved in the Royal New Zealand Army.

The New Zealand Operational Service Medal sits atop the list of recognition, which also includes service medals for combat in Vietnam, Malaysia and Borneo.

Not that his Uncle Dickie ever really liked talking about them.

"[But] I like to reflect and be thankful for our current armed forces who are serving overseas," Harrison said.

"Those before them sacrificed their lives for the Australian people and they've given us the opportunity to live like this.

"They fought hard and put their lives on the line for our country, but it's more than your country, isn't it? It's a proud moment knowing what they had to go through and it's hard to relate to now."

Harrison often watched in envy when he was with the Tigers and Raiders of what it must have been like to pull on a Dragons or Roosters jumper on Anzac Day.

The former Kiwi international had the chance to experience that emotion first-hand last year and admitted it's hard not to be consumed by the experience.

"It's easy to get caught in the emotional side of things," he said.

"It can burn a lot of energy but you have to try to maintain your composure and make sure you do your job.

"I used to watch the game and think it was such a big occasion but being a part of it last year, despite the disappointing result, feeling the emotion I was so proud to be a part of it."

The same can be said for Jack de Belin, whose grandfather Fred flew missions over Germany during World War II.

De Belin knows of a relative's reluctance to relay wartime stories yet it doesn't stop him arching the shoulders back and puffing out his chest when the bugle calls to action.

"Hearing that Last Post ... it gives you goosebumps and tingles," de Belin said. "Even the national anthem, arm in arm with your fellow players, it's pretty special.

"You kind of get lost in the moment. You don't really realise it's happening and you kind of get numb and freeze up a little bit.

"Knowing that [de Belin's grandfather] served our country and that he came back - not everyone came back - makes you very proud," he said.

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