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TOGETHER THEN, TOGETHER AGAIN - Veterans Sharing their Knowledge


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My name is Robert (Bob) J Meehan and in 1969 I was required to register for National Service and then served most of my two years’ compulsory military service as an Infantryman within 12 Platoon, Delta Company of the 4th Battalion of the Royal     Australian Regiment (4 RAR).  

During that time I was posted to Townsville and South Vietnam and was discharged in late 1971. In the early 1980s I became involved with Australian Vietnam Veterans’ movements and am still actively involved today. 

In this book I wish to pass on the history of some of the great achievements gained during the fledgling days of the Australian Vietnam Veteran movement through to the present day.  

I have been privileged to have been involved with many of these achievements..

In Store Price: $AU29.95 
Online Price:   $AU28.95

 

AMAZON

ISBN: 978-1-921919-39-8 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 287
Genre: Non Fiction
 

 

 

 


Author: Robert Meehan OAM
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English

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AUTHOR BIO

 

My name is Robert (Bob) J Meehan. I am an upholsterer by trade. I had just completed my indentured apprenticeship when I was required to register for National Service. I was accepted and entered the Army in October 1969. I was posted to 1st  Recruit Training Battalion (1 RTB), 3rd Training Battalion (3TB), Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and then served most of my two years compulsory military service as an Infantryman within 12 Platoon, Delta Company of the Fourth Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR). In that time I was posted to Townsville and Vietnam. I was discharged in late 1971. In the early 80s, I became involved with the Australian Vietnam veteran movement and am still actively involved today.

In this book I wish to pass on the history of some of the great achievements gained during the fledgling days of the Australian Vietnam Veteran movement through to the present day. 

 Introduction 

L

ife after the military brings a strong mix of emotions to most people. I served with an amazing group of Australian infantry soldiers deployed to Vietnam in 1971, and encountered the realities of war, from the numbing boredom of life in Nui Dat and month-long operations in the dense jungle, endless patrols and ambushes where nothing happened, to the terror of enduring mortar and RPG barrages from an unseen enemy. Men died and were crippled in combat by firefights and booby traps. Soldiers killed and captured the enemy, gathered intelligence and retook ground, only to cede it again whilst battling against the bureaucracy and obstinacy of the conventional military hierarchy. In the end, we returned to civilisation, forever changed by our experiences but glad to return to the life we once knew.

After having spent so much time with people close to you in a variety of high-intensity situations, it can be hard to say goodbye. Leaving behind the routine of daily military life is a change that takes a while to adjust to. On the other hand, you return to your loved ones and your hometown, and the joy experienced by many is nothing short of overwhelming.

Coming home means settling into your old life or starting a new one. This life after the military can begin a little roughly. Deciding whether to return home to your family and your old employment or look for a better job can be a tough decision.

After returning home from my service in the Army, I found it hard to adjust. I found that the people I’d known before going into the military seemed to treat me as a leper. My own family kept saying that I had changed. I guess I had; I felt that I’d matured. I could not relate to them or to my friends prior to military service. My life had had a purpose in the Army; now it had nothing. Friendships made in the military formed a bond that no matter what the situation, we were there to support each other. My problem was that I was with them one day and the next I was gone. I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to most of them. When I was discharged, I was told to go back to a civilian lifestyle. I missed the camaraderie of those men with whom I’d shared my last two years, 24/7. I returned to a hostile Australia, but not really home. What I thought would be home just wasn't the same anymore. Everybody expected me to forget about the military and Vietnam and return to work, or get a job and get on with life as if nothing had ever happened in my time in the Army. The mid-70s was a time of adjustment. I’d lost contact with my mates as they lived in other towns, cities, states or were still in the Army. I had relationship and health problems that I couldn’t share with my own wife or family. I needed to find what I called people of my own kind. I needed to find a niche in the ANZAC tradition that was so important to me.

This is my story of my quest and those of my mates. I trust you will enjoy reading it.


Chapter 1

My quest to fit into a military veteran organisation

 

 

N

ot long after I returned home from my Army service and my time in Vietnam with 12 Platoon, Delta Company 4 RAR/NZ in 1971, I went to the local Returned Services Club (RSL) in Brighton-Le-Sands and joined the Sub-Branch, but most of the members were World War Two veterans and they never made me feel welcome. They were not nasty, just indifferent to what I asked or said. I let my membership slip and never renewed it. A few years later after I had moved to Moorebank I thought I’d give it another go. I called into the Edmonson VC Memorial Club in Liverpool. Now, they were downright arrogant; they didn’t want my kind there. I couldn’t understand their attitude but then again I gave the bloke behind the desk some of my attitude back. I was dressed neatly and tidily; with hair cut short, working, over 21 years old and married with one child and one on the way. What was wrong with me that I wasn’t welcome? John Edmonson was awarded the Victoria Cross on North Africa in WWII – the club is named after him. I bet he would be turning in his grave if he saw how the club treated returned soldiers from the Vietnam War.

 

John Edmondson VC

 

NX15705 Corporal John Hurst EDMONDSON

2/17th Australian Infantry Battalion AIF

13th April 1941 at Tobruk, Libya

 

“On the night of 13th April 1941, a party of German infantry broke through the wire defences at Tobruk and established themselves with at least six machine guns, mortars and two small field pieces. It was decided to attack them with bayonets and a party consisting of one officer – Corporal Edmondson – and five privates took part in the charge. During the counter-attack Corporal Edmondson was wounded in the neck and stomach but continued to advance under heavy fire, killing one enemy with his bayonet. Later his officer had his bayonet in one of the enemy and was grasped about the legs by him, when another attacked him from behind. He called for help, and Corporal Edmondson, who was some yards away, immediately came to his assistance and in spite of his wounds, killed both of the enemy. This action undoubtedly saved his officer’s life. Shortly after returning from this successful counter-attack, Corporal Edmondson died of wounds. His actions throughout the operations were outstanding for resolution, leadership and conspicuous bravery.

 

Dave Christie, a mate I’d served with in the Army told me his story about his return to civilian life and his quest to assist others.

 

Story by Dave Christie OAM

(Support Coy 4 RAR) Australian Army

 

I met Bob Meehan OAM during my three years of service in the Army, which was a memorable part of my life. It was because of that service that I realised the direction I had to travel, which was assisting other veterans in whichever way I could.

Bob’s passion and pride in all things military and his drive to get things done had a lasting effect on me and inspired me to look for places where we could make a difference.

When we veterans came back from Vietnam in the 60s and 70s there was an active drive against us – the Vietnam Veterans – due to the political unrest in the general community, which lasted for many years. This had the effect in the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) as we were told that it was an unpopular war and many clubs would not allow us to join. Many Vietnam Veterans had family, who’d served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in theatres of conflict, the Boer War, WWI, WWII, Korea and Malaysia, and we felt that we should have been part of that group.

To not be welcomed by the RSL left many veterans bitter and divided, but with the passion that we had, many Ex-Service Organisations (ESOs) were formed. This fractionalised the veteran community as very few wanted to work together for the common goal, which was the Ex-Service and Veteran community. Finally there seemed to be a small percentage of veterans, who could see the benefits of joining forces, and we find ourselves today with 15 of the main ESOs working hand-in-hand to make a difference to the lives of the veterans and their families.

When I returned from Vietnam I joined the RSL in my hometown – Parramatta – which was also my father’s RSL. My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my uncle and my father had fought in conflicts all over the world and the passion to assist other veterans was slowly brewing in my stomach, so I saw the role I had been given from my ancestors, and that was to keep this passion going. Many of the members of the 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment with whom I’d spent the majority of my service, had also inspired me to give where I could, not only to the unit but to other veterans.

I lived in Sydney until 1988 when I purchased the business I’d been the manager of for 10 years and moved it to Brisbane. Here I settled with my wife, Deborah, who has been my backbone of strength and who has given me two daughters, who have made me very proud. Over the next couple of years I was extremely busy with the business and did not play much of a role in helping veterans, and this started to bother me. So I again got back into the RSL and joined the Goodna RSL Services Club and Sub-Branch in 1991, joining the Board of the Club the same year. My role was the President of the Club and I have held that now for the last 16-17 years. This has allowed me to get involved in not only the veteran community but also the general community around Goodna.

There are many ESOs in this country, some of which include, RSL, Vietnam Veterans Association, Royal Australian Regiment Association, Air Force Association, Naval Association and the list goes on. Many of these groups do great work with veterans from all conflicts leading up to and including the current troops, whose job is becoming more difficult to do. One of the ESOs, which has grown very quickly, is a group called Young Diggers Australia (www.youngdiggers.com.au). This was founded by a Vietnam Veteran and other Ex-Service staff, who have made it their task to make a difference to the lives of those current ADF members and their families. Young Diggers’ membership is free and anyone can join the group to assist with making a difference to our troops. The main sponsor of Young Diggers is the Goodna RSL Services Club, but they are also sponsored by other businesses, which allow them to do their job.

The role of the ESOs is diminishing and many of those groups will find themselves in a position where they will have to join forces, due to the lack of members as Ex-Service members pass on and for other reasons, so time will tell. Many people, whose family members have served in the military, understand the problems facing that Ex-Service person, with financial and health issues. The need for ESOs to continue will be ever present, but in a smaller role. It is up to our youth of today to keep the tradition of our military history alive and this can be seen by the growth in all the cadet units for the younger teenagers. The club I am in assists four cadet units in our district and with the assistance of our Sub-Branch we have made it possible for these units to continue and grow. These cadets form a large part of our ceremonies for ANZAC Day, Vietnam Veterans Day, and Remembrance Day, with many of these cadets now full-time members of the ADF serving in conflicts overseas.

As I look back to where I have come since joining the Army in 1969 to today, I am proud to say I have served, and I am proud to endeavour to make a difference to other veterans and the Ex-Service community as a whole, I am also proud to have served in the 4th Battalion RAR, whose motto is “Duty First” and which I see in many of those fellow members, Duty first to their families, their friends, their fellow veterans, their unit and their country.

David Christie OAM

HON President, Goodna RSL Services Club Inc


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