Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Remains of Vietnam vet return to Melbourne

This story was posted on the ABC’s website today.

The remains of an Australian medic killed in Vietnam 36 years ago, will be returned to Melbourne this morning.

Family and friends of Lance Corporal John Gillespie will attend the military ceremony at the Point Cook Air Base.

The 24-year-old medic was killed in 1971, when his helicopter was shot down by enemy fire in the Minh Dam Mountains.

His remains were discovered in an excavation of the crash site.

The veterans' group, Operation Aussies Home have been working to bring the soldier home.

His widow, Carmel Hendrie and daughter, Fiona Pike were at Hanoi International Airport on Monday to watch soldiers carry his casket to a waiting RAAF Hercules aircraft.

The plane arrives in Melbourne this morning.

It’s gratifying that Corporal Gillespie’s remains have been repatriated, and I hope that this action helps his family. The work done by Operation Aussies Home is outstanding.

I know the Minh Dam Mountains as the Long Hais and was in the area near this incident on 28th February 2006 with a group of veterans. This was the anniversary of the loss of eight diggers from 8 RAR in 1970. We acknowledged this with a simple ceremony. Whilst my unit was 7RAR, there were some blokes from 8RAR in the group, and the commemoration meant a lot to them. My sons were with me, and they were given the honour of reading the service. We left poppies for remembrance.

As time goes on, the recognition owed to those who died in Vietnam is improving. It’s a far cry from the situation in the early seventies, when I hid the fact that I was a veteran after some pretty sad episodes. I trust that John Gillespie’s homecoming will be more honoured than many surviving comrades received in the early seventies.

He deserves nothing less.

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