STANDING shoulder to shoulder on a beach or at a memorial park at dawn, it's hard to fathom the sheer magnitude of the sacrifice.

As the war deaths numbers are read out in speeches, it can be akin to hearing annual road toll figures.

They don't mean much until you know someone who has died in a car crash - and then the figures reverberate with pain as you consider what others are going through.

In the earliest major conflict, in South Africa from 1899 to 1902, 589 Australians lost their lives. In a country with such a small population, the impact would have been enormous.

That toll of suffering though was not long eclipsed by the staggering 61,513 who died serving in Australian units in the First World War from August 4 1914 to March 31 1921.

In the Second World War, another 39,649 paid the ultimate sacrifice during service from 1939 on.

The Malayan Emergency saw another 39 from 1948 onwards while the Korean War took out 340 from 1950 to 1953.

The Vietnam War, from 1962 to 1975, saw another 521 die in Australian units.

Horribly, many Vietnam veterans returned to protests over our involvement rather than being given any respect for their efforts.

The most recent conflicts in East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq and Indonesia have impacted more than 50 families.

According to the Australian War Memorial, the total of deaths stands at 102,784.

It's more than a number.

It's the price that has been paid in human blood - and family suffering back home - so that we can enjoy freedoms that we take for granted.

Anzac Day has never been about glorifying war.

The faces of those who have lost mates tell you that as you watch them pay their respects.

It's about honouring sacrifice, love of country, and the courage and commitment to stand up for what you believe in.

We Won't Forget.


* Mark Furler is APN Australian Regional Media's group digital editor. The video features a song by his brother Peter Furler, founder of Newsboys, as a special tribute to Australia's war veterans.