THIS year’s Allied Forces and National Servicemen’s Reunion was the largest display of mateship, respect and local support to date, according to Moree RSL sub-branch member Cr John Tramby.
“The most rewarding part was hearing visitor’s stories about how welcomed they felt at Moree,” he said.
The commemoration ceremony for soldiers and veterans entered its second year at Moree, drawing a crowd of more than 200 current, returned and ex-servicemen and their families—a jump from 120 last year.
People came from all over Australia including Sydney, Brisbane, Gosford, Casino, Bellingen, Caboolture, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie to pay tribute to our nation’s brave.
“We gave a small token of appreciation to one couple who travelled all the way from Wagga Wagga, which was a two-train and 16 hour trip,” said cr Tramby.
The march started at the Moree District War Memorial. The procession made their way down Balo Street before gathering at the steps of Moree Memorial Hall for a dignified service, remembering all the brave soldiers who gave their lives for country.
“The service is not only about remembering all those who gave their lives in all wars, but also those who have returned home and continue to carry the scars and trauma of war,” said cr Tramby.
He added, the battle continued for many soldiers, even long after they had returned home.
“In the last calendar year, 65 Afghan veterans took their own lives. For every soldier that has been killed in the Afghanistan war, five have taken their own lives because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Cr Tramby said, while treatment for PTSD is much better than what it was before, there was still much work to be done. Commemorations, like this one, were a way of showing support to those still in suffering.
1960s pop singer Patricia ‘Little Pattie’ Thelma Thompson attended the commemoration ceremony as a guest, who later performed a number of old favourites for the crowd during dinner at Moree Services Club.
“Having Little Pattie at the service was a big deal for many of the soldiers who served during the Vietnam War,” said cr Tramby.
The Australian Forces sweetheart was performing her playlist to soldiers at Nui Dat when the Battle of Long Tan happened.
“Little Pattie had to jump in a helicopter for immediate evacuation. Up in the air, she saw the battle and destruction,” said cr Tramby.
Pattie was flown to Vung Tau, where she witnessed the effects of war at the hospital, seeing the wounded soldiers.
“She wanted to lift their spirits so she held an impromptu concert,” said cr Tramby.
National Servicemen’s Association president Robert Brown awarded Little Pattie an Honorary Life Membership, commemorating her efforts in assisting the soldiers.
Cr Tramby thanked the support of the local community and organisations for helping to make a successful night.