Anzac Day 2021: NZ leaders acknowledge the concept of service 'by values and by commitment'

Anzac dawn services were packed out throughout the country on Sunday for the first full-scale commemorations in three years.

With the country in lockdown last year, and scaled back services in 2019 after the mosque attacks - Sunday's events were full to the brim.

The notes of 'The Last Post' ringing out across Auckland's war memorial carrying with them the sacrifices of those who served.

"Finally the concept of service is no longer defined by gender, race or religion but by values and by commitment," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Ardern said on Sunday.

It's a commitment that 93-year-old Gordon Sutherland knows well from his time serving in Korea. 

"The worst experience I ever had was seeing napalm used for the first time," he told Newshub.

"I was so shocked that I even felt sorry for the enemy - the enemy that was a human being."

It's something he hasn't shared until now but felt the time was right.

"I've never forgotten it, and I've never talked about it, this is the first time I've actually spoken about that occasion in Korea," Sutherland said.

Experiences like Sutherland's being remembered across the country. 

This year, the theme for Anzac services around the country was "serve and sacrifice" with a particular focus on the role of women.

Thousands of people also gathered at Wellington's Pukeahu War memorial on Anzac Day - standing shoulder to shoulder - a completely different scene to last year when this site was completely empty.

It was evidence that New Zealand's war on COVID-19 had been successful.

"This time a year ago there was no dawn service, instead NZers ventured down their driveways to stand at dawn," Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy said during the national remembrance service.

But Sunday's dawn has been filled with music, marching, and memories.