Honour bestowed on fallen Anzacs
JOHN MCDONOUGH’S eyes tear up when the Goonellabah man recalls friends that were killed on active service in Vietnam.
Based at the Bien Hoa Airfield with the 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), Mr McDonough was part of the first unit of Australians to enter the war in 1965.
The 1RAR were attached to the elite United States 173rd Airborne Brigade, forming the third battalion.
That attachment will be honoured on June 1 at Fort Benning, Columbus, when the 173rd Airborne dedicates a memorial to the foreign soldiers who died while serving alongside the Americans. Fort Benning is the ‘Jump School’ for all US Airborne soldiers.
It is believed it will be the only memorial on American soil to list Australian and New Zealanders.
It is a show of respect from the Airborne, with the monument entirely funded by returned soldiers associations.
“What an honour,” Mr McDonough said.
“It’s a great follow up to the meritorious unit citation that we were awarded a number of years ago. The dedication will be within two or three days of us arriving in the country in 1965, 45 years earlier.”
Poignantly, some of the names listed on the monument will include some good mates of Mr McDonough’s.
“One of the first names will be Bill Carroll who was a mate of mine. He was killed in June just after we’d got in the country,” the 68-year-old said.
“Another will be Tiny Parker. His remains were only returned two years ago, he was MIA (missing in action).”
Mr McDonough, a former Marist Brothers student, enlisted from Lismore and spent 36 years in the army, eventually retiring as a Sergeant-Major attached to the Base Administration Support Centre in Sydney.
The former mortar crewman is waiting to find out whether the Australian government will fund his flight to the United States for the dedication.
However, he has decided he will be attending come what may.
“It’s an honour,” he said.