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Think Piece: National Servicemen Memorial

Thursday 8 June, 2017

On Friday the 17th of March 2017, the National Servicemen’s Association (South Australia Branch) conducted a ‘dedication service’ at its Headquarters (41 Surrey Road Keswick) for a Memorial and Pathway of pavers in remembrance of the 212 National Servicemen who did not return from Vietnam and Borneo and to recognise those who served as National Servicemen between 1951-1972. The pathway has the names of all those who did not return etched on gold coloured pavers surrounding a large crucifix of similar colour in pavers.

The memorial is cast in bronze and embedded upon a large solemn stone.

Some 1,000 pavers form the pathway made up of the gold pavers and red coloured pavers that have been purchased by members and relatives of the National Servicemen’s Association, RSL branches, and other supporting organisations.

This Memorial is considered by our members to be recognition of their Service to the Nation, but particularly in memory of the 212 National Servicemen who did not return. The pride in this achievement is evident when people are inspecting the Memorial and pathway with our members who proudly explain the purpose and reason for its existence. We must remember also that the willing participants in this project are all in their late 70s, early 80s and are not as supple and fit as they used to be.

The project has taken four years, being completed in various stages, and has been supported by the Federal Government (Stronger Communities Program) with grants through Department of Veteran Affairs (Saluting Their Service), South Australian Government Veterans S.A. (ANZAC Day Commemoration Fund), Local Government (City of West Torrens) including the provision of a large rock provided by Mr Mark Pickard who also provided the concrete together with the preparation for the laying of the pavers. Mr Jack Holland did an excellent job of laying the pavers.

The Memorial is distinct from the cenotaph dedicated to National Servicemen in Canberra by being the only memorial to list the names of all 212 conscripted men killed in the Indonesian Konfrontasi and in the Vietnam War.

The Statement of Purpose that was read during the Dedication Service stated:-

“This stone and pathway with the gold pavers, will give all who pause to read and contemplate reminders that there were times past when there were anxieties abroad in the nation that the strengthening of our armed forces was a necessity.

Here are many names of those who as young men took up the challenges of National Service, who served faithfully, and who remain proud of that service.

Especially, this is the place where the names of National Servicemen who gave their lives in theatres of war are displayed.

We honour them here.

We want their sacrifice to be remembered always.

Our Nation is proud of them. We are proud of them.”

The service was attended by Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, and Mrs Le, and numerous other dignitaries with       approximately 400 people, consisting of members of the Association and other like organisations. The Vietnam Veterans Association provided catering for the day.

The attributes of teamwork and values that Ex National Servicemen have as a result of their training has enhanced the achievement and results of this project.

During the Friday get togethers at 41 Surrey Road, many stories of experiences during the times of National Service are exchanged between the 50 plus members in attendance, with some being slightly exaggerated. This shows that the larrikin element in the Australian Service person is alive and well to this day, but when the job is to be done you can depend on those people to complete the task without question.

The National Servicemen’s Association (SA Branch) is extremely proud of this achievement, as this is a permanent monument recognising the service and commitment of all that have served and paid the ultimate price for our Country.

John Thorne ESM has been the State President of the National Servicemen’s Association for the past 6 years.  He was a volunteer in the Citizens Military Forces. John was attached to 7 Supply Platoon prior to serving with 89 Transport (Motor Ambulance). On completion of his service he joined the South Australia Police Force serving for 21 years in Traffic, Major Crash and Regional Traffic prior to being a member of Special Tasks and Rescue Force. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in Ceduna, returning to Port Adelaide prior to resigning.  John was then appointed to the State Emergency Service as a Regional Officer. He served in the City and Far North Region obtaining the rank of Regional Commander Central Region and Commander Operations prior to retirement. John was awarded the Emergency Service Medal in the Queens Birthday Honours in 2001. Since retirement he has been the State President of the National Servicemen’s Association for the past 6 years.

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