Current and ex-servicemen and women have been honoured and remembered at ANZAC Day Services across the South East.
Local school students were out in force from Batemans Bay to Eden and a heartfelt personal story of a fallen Vietnam soldier was told by a student at Bega’s Anzac Day service on Tuesday.
Year 11 Bega High School student, Jovi Hayes, gave a speech about her great uncle, Corporal Jim “Gabby” Hayes, of the 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, who was killed in action in Vietnam at just 27 years of age.
“Jim chose to go and he fought and died in Vietnam,” Jovi told East Coast Radio.
“His job was to train conscripts, which was a big job because obviously they didn’t want to be there but he was teaching them how to use the guns and everything,” she said.
“A lot of the time he was away from the front line training but he died getting ambushed in Vietnam, making sure that everyone else around him was able to try and get to safety.”
“I’m proud to say my great-uncle died doing something he chose to do and something he loved. He was a selfless man who died protecting others.”
Jovi said there was a quote from the machine gunner in Hayes’ section – Private Des Burley – that filled her with pride for her great-uncle.
“The bravest act that I saw in Vietnam was Gabby Hayes so intent on making sure that his section was down on the ground in firing position that he left himself completely exposed to enemy fire.
“He never fired a shot; he was riddled with machine gun bullets. My thoughts then were ‘what a waste of a great leader’.”
To this day, there is an annual toast to Australian Infantrymen, that started with Gabby.
“This is the night where the 7th Battalion has their sergeants make a toast to all of the privates, this tradition started with my great uncle and in his will, he left money so that this event could happen every single year.”
After 20 years of mistreatment in their then hometown of Goulburn, after the Vietnam War, the town officially issued an apology to the Hayes family in 1988.
Jim “Gabby” Hayes was eventually put on a roll of honour.
Jovi said the research and preparation for her ANZAC Day wasn’t easy but it was worth every minute.
“My grandfather never used to speak about Jim but I managed to get some information from him which was great,” Hayes said.
“I’ve never really done this kind of thing before but since doing research, I’ve found that there’s a lot more than what you think you know, it’s a huge honour to represent him and I’m the first in my family to do that and I would recommend it (looking into your family history and military ties), especially for young people,” she said.
Plenty of wreaths were laid by service organisations, community groups and school children at Bega’s Anzac Day service which was MC’d by John Watkin.
Among those in attendance was Vietnam veteran and Bega Valley resident, Frank Hunt, known to most Australians as “Frankie” in the famed anti-war song, ‘I was only 19’, by Redgum
Member for Eden Monaro, Kristy McBain, and Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick, were just two of the dignitaries that attended ANZAC Day Services on the South Coast.
The pair both read prayers and laid weaths at the Bega Service where the Bega District Band provided music for the several hymns sung by the crowd – one of which, Abide In Me, was led by Bega Valley singer-songwriter Jackson Fisher.
Meanwhile, the town of Cobargo also came out in droves to attend their ANZAC Day Service.
The Cobargo march started at 10am from the Cobargo School of Arts to the memorial before a mid-morning service.
Cobargo hotel Owner, Dave Allen says there were well over 300 people in attendance.
“Really big ceremony in Cobargo on ANZAC Day, it’s probably one of the biggest I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Allen said.
“The service was highlighted by the appearance of the local Light Horse Brigade and the Australian Defence Force personele as part of the ceremony,” he said.
“Later, a lot of people came by the Cobargo Hotel for a traditional game of Two Up which everyone enjoyed.
“It was just a great ANZAC Day in Cobargo.”
Images: James Fennessy – East Coast Radio, David Allen – Cobargo Hotel