Upper Hutt Labour MP Chris Hipkins said he had been coming to the Anzac Day dawn service since before he became an MP.
"Every year the crowd seems to get bigger, which is really pretty amazing. It's an important event on the Upper Hutt annual calendar."
A cold frost did not deter the crowd. The clear morning sky boasted stars, accompanied by red lights reflecting from Upper Hutt's Expressions Whirinaki building.
Veterans marched, having served in World War II, the Korean War, Malaysia, the Vietnam War, Bosnia, Bougainville, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The shot fired by John Leith caused many in the crowd to jump despite previous warning.
Father Maleko Api-Tufuga of St Johns Parish opened the prayer, remembering those who lost their lives, but also those who had returned.
Lieutenant Colonel William Blaikie, who led the Anzac Address, said the number of fatalities was thought to have been 17,000 but that recent research suggested the number could be double that.
The statistics highlighted the importance of social diplomacy and international relations to ensure "we try to prevent conflict in the future", Blaikie said
"We don't want wars. We want to prevent them, but at this point, it has not been entirely possible," he said.
Official records show more than 36,000 Australia and New Zealand casualties and more than 10,000 deaths. In total, more than 130,000 people died on both sides of the battlefield.
The song Sons of Gallipoli, performed by Jade Eru, was orotund. It perfectly captured the awfulness of war and the beauty of the sacrifice and courage of those who died.
Veterans, Army, cadets, clubs and schools marched down Fergusson Drive from the memorial followed by many others.
Bagpipes foreshadowed the end of the service. New Zealand and Australian national anthems were heard, while many sang proudly before leaving the service, in the early morning light
As crowds cleared, the memorial was clearly seen once again, bathed in red and surrounded by carefully placed wreaths.
A handful of families remained to snap memories frozen in time and share stories of those lost.
David Boyd, who served in three military tours, said the big thing to remember was the "guys who went before and guys who are currently serving". Both his grandfathers had served.
Sergeant Colbert said that Anzac day to him meant service.
"I am spending this morning with family and the rest of day with defence commitments."
Hipkins said Anzac Day was a time to reflect on the cause of Anzac, World War I and Gallipoli as well as people who had made "sacrifices for our peace and our freedom".