An Australian soldier shot in the ankle on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea refused a stretcher and crawled in agony for three weeks.
Federal politicians were told the story of Corporal John Arthur Metson, as they took a moment's pause on the first day of parliament's return to reflect on Australians sent to war.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten were among MPs and senators who attended the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial on Monday evening.
"Everything we do across the lake, the right to legislate for our nation, to debate, discuss and decide our destiny, we owe to all of those who are honoured here," Mr Turnbull said.
Australia's military history stretched across an epic canvas, the prime minister said.
"It's only within each brush stroke that the personal cost of such sacrifice is revealed," he said.
Mr Turnbull paid tribute to the courage of Corporal Metson.
"John refused to be carried, so on padded hands and padded knees and in silent agony he crawled for nearly three weeks through a 7000-foot mountain range," Mr Turnbull said.
Corporal Metson, was killed by Japanese troops at Sengai, aged 24.
Mr Shorten urged MPs to do better at honouring the nation's oldest promise - to remember them.
"Let all of us who serve in the parliament of a free people promise to do better when it comes to caring for the brave sons and daughters who have kept Australia free," he said.
Ministers laid floral wreaths during the ceremony.