Three Generations

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A few months ago, a group of men walked into my office to find out if perhaps we might be interested in helping them raise awareness of the local Veterans Centre. What initially took me aback was that two of the men were my age; I realised I had always thought of veterans as elderly gentlemen you see on ANZAC or Remembrance Day. What has transpired since that initial meeting has been some great conversations, interviews and for me personally, an insight into the hurdles that all of our returned servicemen and women face and a whole new respect for those serving our country.

This month, seeing as it is Remembrance Day on November 11, I thought we would meet three generations of men who have all served their country and are current members of the Taree Veterans Centre. Mike Eschbach was among those men who walked into my office all those months back; this month he introduces us to his father Ron and son Brett.

Ron, how long have you lived in the Manning Great Lakes?

I was born at North Sydney in 1923 and lived in Penrith and Springwood. I moved here from Springwood to live at Golden Ponds Resort in Forster eight and a half years ago.

What was your role in the Defence Force?

My role in the Defence Force was in a Field Regiment on the 25 lb Field Guns. I was part of a team and became a Specialist Gun Layer. Later I trained to be a Stretcher Bearer in an Infantry Battalion.

What did that entail?

As a Gun Layer, you received instructions, with which you adjusted your instruments. When on target, you were given the order to fire. As a Stretcher Bearer, I had the responsibility of treating and saving the wounded.

Where did you serve?

In the Artillery, my role was on coastal defence on NSW and West Australian coasts. As a Stretcher Bearer, I served with an Infantry Battalion in British North Borneo. I spent many months in the forests with the Dyaks and Ibans, who were still headhunters.

What piece of advice would you give to a young person considering joining the Defence Force?

My advice to a young person joining the force is to think carefully. You are trained to kill, and when you come face to face with another person, it is not a good feeling.

What is a positive memory you have taken away from your time in service?

One of my positive memories is being a team member and a supporter of each other.

What are your favourite words to live by?

My favourite words to live by are: respect others and respect yourself, not only on Remembrance Day, but all times.

Brett, what was your role in the Defence Force?

I was a driver.

What did that entail?

Moving troops and loads such as Leopard Tanks, and driving road trains throughout Australia.

Where did you serve?

Sydney, Townsville, Puckapunyal, Bougainville, East Timor and an exchange with the US Army in Hawaii.

What is one of the positive memories you have taken away with you from your time in service?

The friends I met will last for life. You also get to do and see things that you’d never be able to in normal work situations.

What piece of advice would you give to a young person considering joining the Defence Force?

Do it! It’s an excellent way to learn new skills with adventure … It’s also great job security.

What are your favourite words to live by?

Enjoy it – you only live once!

Mike, how about you? Where are you from, and how long have you lived in the Manning-Great Lakes?

I was born at Penrith and apart from my time in the RAAF, I lived in Penrith and Springwood in the Blue Mountains. In 2006 my wife and I moved to Hallidays Point, and we are enjoying a happy retirement.

What was your role in the Defence Force?

I joined the Air Force after leaving school and completed my apprenticeship as an Aircraft Engine Fitter.

What did that entail?

Performing aircraft ground maintenance on various aircraft, which included: DC3 Dakota, C130A Hercules and DHC-4 Caribou Transport Aircraft, Canberra and F111C Bomber Aircraft.

Where did you serve?

I completed my apprenticeship at Wagga Wagga RAAF training college, then I served in 2 Aircraft Depot, 36 Sqn and 38 Sqn at RAAF Base Richmond and 3 Aircraft Depot at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. In 1971 just after turning 21 and in my second year of marriage, I was posted to 35 Sqn Vung Tau in Vietnam. My experience in Vietnam was at times quite scary and also very exciting. Apart from maintaining our Caribou aircraft (green gravel trucks), we were also required to assist our aircrews on many flights. This involved flying into many remote airstrips (if you could call them that) to drop off vital supplies for our soldiers. It was very hard work and also very rewarding, knowing that we were supporting our soldiers. I met many of the locals while I was in Vietnam and wonder what life was like for them after we left. After serving in Vietnam, which had been at war for many years, I realised then and still do to this day how beautiful it is to call Australia home.

What piece of advice would you give to a young person considering joining the Defence Force?

If you’re seeking a career path that entails responsibility, comradeship and adventures, then join the Defence Force – the opportunities are endless.

What are your favourite words to live by?

Treat all people with respect, and always remember that you are as important as anyone else.

What does a day like Remembrance Day mean to you?

It is not only a day to remember the sacrifices our soldiers have given in past wars; it is also a day to remember our defence force personnel currently on active duty overseas – and to wish for their safe return home. I am a proud member of Taree Veterans Centre and on behalf of our venture, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Amy Heague, Editor of (MGL) FOCUS and her staff for their kind support. I would also like to thank the staff at Pulse Health for their valued assistance with respect to the health of our members. When my grandfather and father returned home from active service, there was very little help available for them regarding welfare assistance, claims or counselling – even to just have a cuppa and talk to people who have been there and understand what they are going through. At Taree Veterans Centre we are happy to assist any past or present Defence Service personnel and their families when they require help. We are always happy to welcome new members and only ask for a kind donation to help our centre remain open.

Thank you Ron, Brett and Mike.

Taree Veterans Centre is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 0930 to 1400 hours, and we can be contacted on 6557 8777.

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