Vietnam veterans John English and Alan Chandler during the Anzac Day commemoration in Buderim last year. Photo: John McCutcheon
Vietnam veterans John English and Alan Chandler during the Anzac Day commemoration in Buderim last year. Photo: John McCutcheon

Veteran remembers fallen mates after service

WHEN veteran John English pauses to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, more than just faceless men and women fill his mind.

It's been 52 years since Mr English served as a national serviceman in the Vietnam War, yet the memories of his time in battle haven't been forgotten.

While the Buderim pine forest is usually filled with hundreds paying their respects on April 25, today the tall trees served as the perfect scenery for Mr English's own private service.

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"Anzac Day for me, being a veteran and knowing some of the guys who were killed, is fairly personal," he said.

"So I'll just do my personal thing and go up and remember those who I served with and didn't get to spend the next 50 years of their lives with as us survivors have."

While today's commemoration was hindered by distancing regulations due to coronavirus, Mr English said there was strength in the country's minimal services this year.

"Anzac Day, in some instances and in my personal point of view, has become a little festival-like rather than a remembrance thing," he said.

John English gathered with members of the Buderim War Memorial Association Anzac Day subcommittee for a private ceremony this morning.
John English gathered with members of the Buderim War Memorial Association Anzac Day subcommittee for a private ceremony this morning.

"I think the general public see it as a remembrance, but we also get the midmorning parades which tend to get away from what it's actually about.

"It brings back the core of Anzac Day which is to remember those who lost their lives."

Although Mr English could not stand side-by-side the mates who had his back five decades ago, he said their bond would never be broken.

"Most inventory soldiers can relate to this … the closer you are to the danger the greater the bonds you form with those you serve with," he said.

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"When you're actually in combat, you're not really fighting for your country. You're fighting for each other, you're fighting to stay alive on a particular day.

"You think about the experiences you go through, both terrifying and also humorous, and all the ranges of emotion you can go through in combat. So we all have a close bond."

While some predicted Anzac ceremonies would cease to exist as new generations aged, Mr English said it was heartening to see youth participate in services.

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"I went through a period in my life where after the Vietnam War, Anzac Day services were not seen as being very important," he said. "They were almost seen as being pro-war.

"Now it's come back to where it's almost a patriotic thing to do, which I think is good.

"It's about remembering those who lost their lives in war and not actually whether that particular war was right or wrong.

"If a young man dies at war, about all he can hope for is that his legacy will be remembered. "That's about all there is, just to remember them."