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Transcript of speech: Return Service of Lance Corporal Richard Parker & Private Peter Gillson, Hanoi, Vietnam (4 June, 2007)

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TRANSCRIPT The Hon. Bruce Billson, MP Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Monday, 4 June 2007 Lance Corporal Richard Parker & Private Peter Gillson RETURN SERVICE Hanoi, Vietnam (4 June, 2007) Members of the family of the Late Private Peter Gillson, His Excellency, Bill Tweddell; Land Commander Australia, Major General Mark Kelly; Brigadier Bill Rolfe, Repatriation Commissioner; serving men and women of the ADF; John Griffith, Defence Attaché; Jim Bourke and his Operation Aussies Home colleagues; veterans, Defence and Embassy officials, ladies and gentlemen. This is a profoundly significant day. For the families of the loved ones lost, a day of great emotion, from elation to the emptiness of grief, a day of tears, both of joy and harrowing sorrow. A landmark occasion as a grateful nation carries forward its special duty and moral obligation to those who have done all that their country asked of them and in doing so, paid the ultimate price. Australia honours Lance Corporal Richard Harold John Parker and Private Peter Raymond Gillson - soldiers in the finest ANZAC tradition. For mates, bound together by a shared experience and the motto of the Royal Australian Regiment of ‘duty first’, we recognise the weight of worry and wonder, and salute their enduring commitment - to Operation Hump some 15,152 days on, the unfinished business this represents, and that getting the job done is now just a Herc’ ride away. For more than four decades, this story has been largely settled, yet incomplete. The chapters already written record … • the context of their service and sacrifice; the events that took their energetic lives and gave them eternal youth;

• the courage of their conduct and commitment; the care of their mates; • the many casualties - including two young Australian soldiers, the physical and emotional wounds carried by fellow combatants, family and friends who faced futures without a husband, a brother, a father, a son, a mate; • the conviction, that has not wearied or waned, despite the slow passage of many,

many years, that a new chapter need be written - a conclusion.

So we are here today, creating that new chapter. A chapter largely penned by the passion and perseverance of mates who never gave up and rarely let a day escape without remembering and recommitting to their goal.

A remarkable and selfless Australian, Jim Bourke, and his dedicated Vietnam veteran team from Operation Aussies Home, represented here today by Jim, Gordon Peterson, Trevor Hagan and Clive Williams, and their band of veteran supporters, persisted tirelessly with their inquiries, research and advocacy, to compile insights and evidence, beyond the historical material and official records, to make it possible to get to where we are today.

This final chapter in the story of Lance Corporal Parker and Private Gillson, could not be written without Jim Bourke and Operation Aussies Home.

Guided and encouraged by loving and patient families, keen for closure but cautious about prospects, ‘Team Australia’ stepped forward and worked to reach for the best of all possibilities. This approach brought to the table the very best endeavours of many.

The very best of Operation Aussies Home, of Army and its traditions and duty; of the Australian Defence Force and its remarkable capability; of the broader Defence enterprise and its immense expertise; of Foreign Affairs and its outstanding diplomatic talents, particularly Ambassador to Vietnam, Bill Tweddell and Defence Attaché Captain John Griffith; of the families and their wise counsel and considered engagement.

To our hosts today, the Government and people of Vietnam, who know the pain and price of combat, who commemorate as we commemorate the immense human and material cost of war, Australia thanks you.

Our sincere appreciation recognises and records the collaboration between our Government and officials, the cooperation of Vietnamese authorities, the assistance and advice of your veterans, the hospitality of your local communities and the valued facilitation of your Ambassador and Embassy in Australia.

The product of this shared sense of purpose, commitment and conviction, is the opportunity to finish unfinished business; to discharge in full our duty; to accomplish a mission more than 41 years in the making; to lay properly to rest two soldiers in the soil of their homeland, within the reach and reflections of their families, back amongst the mates whose thoughts and brotherly bond never left them or faded.

So today, the new chapter, the final chapter of the story of Lance Corporal Parker and Private Gillson, begins to be written.

Let the final chapter read and record: two brave servicemen lost; now forever young; never forgotten; found, recovered and repatriated with great care and dignity; carried home by the

hands of mateship; returned to those who love and were loved; honoured and laid to rest by a grateful nation; home at last, always remembered.

Media information: Cameron Hill +61 437 262 246

Defence Media Liaison (02) 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

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