A NEW living war memorial in far north Queensland has propelled the small tourist village of Yungaburra into national prominence.
The Afghanistan Avenue of Honour on the banks of Lake Tinaroo was developed last year in memory to those who served in Afghanistan.
There are 41 names on the honour roll.
But it's how the memorial has captured the hearts of the Australian public, with thousands flocking to the lakeside village to pay their respects, that has surprised many.
The memorial was developed after the funeral at the site of Commando Private Benjamin Chuck, who grew up in Yungaburra and died in combat in the mountains of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. It was attended by more than 1000 people including political, military and community heavyweights.
The memorial consists of a path flagged by flame trees - representing the final journey home for the fallen - the memorial and honour board, which features plaques for each fallen soldier and a path leading from the memorial.
Afghanistan Avenue of Honour Association president Ray Byrnes said the growth in activities associated with the memorial had been unexpected.
He said the original concept caught the community's imagination and attention, and there had been overwhelming support for its development and continued maintenance.
"There's been incredible growth in the activities associated with the avenue over the past 12 months," he said.
"From the large, unexpected turn-up on Remembrance Day where we hadn't planned anything official, but all these people turned up, and then on top of that there was a military helicopter fly-over.
"We had a very memorable dawn service on Anzac Day and a visit by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.
"We have had quite a number of touring groups who have included the avenue as must-see.
"And there are literally thousands of individuals who have come to visit the avenue and spend a few quiet moments in reflection."
The association is supported by volunteers - some who donate money to help fund the avenue's maintenance, while others turn up for regular working bees and to help with hosting group visits. There are several volunteers who attend the site daily to raise and lower flags and check the donation box.
Groups such as the Cairns RSL sub-branch and Tablelands Regional Council have played pivotal roles in the memorial's development.
"This has been significant for so many because this is a campaign that was current at the time that the memorial was built," Mr Byrnes said.
"It is in the news every day. It's a living memorial for people who paid the price over there and those who have returned."
Mark Matthews, CEO of far north Queensland regional economic development organisation Advance Cairns, said the avenue was a fine example of how a community could develop something of national significance.
"The community has been very humble, but has demonstrated a clear sense of purpose and great level of motivation and spirit to drive that success in the first place," Mr Matthews said.
"The avenue has propelled Yungaburra into national prominence and continues to do so as it grows.
"It's been another wonderful dimension to economic development for the region, but this was never part of any broader economic development plan. It's been driven wholly and solely by the community, so you have an enormous sense of ownership and pride and responsibility toward it."
Mr Matthews said increased visitation was a direct spin-off.
"It's a magnet for the region. It's also a draw for the community.
"People are looking for a community that has that strong sense of community, and this I think is a real draw for people who want to move and establish businesses, live and bring up children.
"This has galvanised the community and demonstrates community spirit, and is an endearing draw to the region."
Activities planned this year include the inaugural Solider on Triathlon in November, being hosted by the council.