A Hervey Bay man who served in the Vietnam War will pay tribute to fallen military personnel – including his two uncles – on ANZAC Day.
Robert Symonds commenced his defence force career half a century ago at the age of 22.
He served in the New Zealand Air Force for 19 years and during that time was based at all the military bases in that country.
At the end of the Vietnam War in the early-1970s he was stationed in Singapore for three years.
“Towards the end of the Vietnam War they set up a base in Singapore and placed all their garrisons there,” says Robert, who is a Carinity Home Care Hervey Bay client.
Robert was initially in the 28th Commonwealth Brigade then served in the ANZUK Provost unit in Singapore.
He was essentially part of the military police charged with maintaining order for 7,000 British, New Zealand and Australian troops, as well as visiting US and French navy fleets.
“Many of our men did fall. It’s not well known but more New Zealanders died in those operations than died in Vietnam,” Robert recalls.
“We lost a number of men to things like traffic accidents and brawls. There were some pretty horrific scenes.”
Now 72, Robert is proud of his service in New Zealand’s defence force whose personnel have the same reverence for ANZAC Day than Australians, but in fewer numbers.
“There are 30,000 ex-New Zealand servicemen and women in Australia who served in the armed forces in New Zealand,” he says.
On ANZAC Day today, Robert will honour fallen military mates as well as family members who died in conflicts.
“Two of my uncles were in World War I and they were only 19 and 20 years of age. They died in the last days of the war,” Robert says.
For Robert, ANZAC Day is about “remembering those who have served and ones who have been lost” and recognising the comradery of “working together as a team to get the job done”.
“For me the comradery was like having a rural fire brigade: the community coming together because it needs to look after itself,” he says.
“We help each other because we are all part of the one body – just different limbs.”
Robert receives support from Carinity Home Care Hervey Bay for meal preparation, domestic assistance, and transport to and from appointments.
Carinity Home Care Hervey Bay will soon assist Robert with receiving hydrotherapy to aid his physical mobility.