Following the Kuranda trip, we had a day off – well a day off tripping, but there is always ‘housework’ to be done, even in a van. You know – washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning . . . a woman’s work is never done. Blah bah blah.
Saturday, 22 June – a day to be long remembered. We had been hearing about the ‘Avenue of Honour’ at Yungaburra through the local radio for some weeks now, & here we were just a short drive away. What better way to spend a tropical winter’s day than a quick drive up to the tablelands and be a part of this momentous occasion. The Gillies Highway, which leaves the coastal route at Gordonvale, is not really worth of the name ‘highway’. Switchback would be more like it. Gordon & I have a bit of a pact whereby he does the majority of the driving whilst we are under tow, & I do the driving without ‘Toad Hall’. So off we merrily went from Cairns south to Gordonvale then west. Until the road started to become hairy- and I mean REALLY hairy. At the first opportunity I pulled over & told Gordon all deals were off! I simply was NOT driving any further!
So on we continued, with Gordon behind the wheel & me behind my hands. We chanced upon a beautiful Tea House on the banks of Lake Barrine, where we stopped for coffee & a bite to eat. It was still just before midday & the official opening was not until 2:45, so we were convinced we had time to dawdle. Little were we to know that approximately 6,000 other people had the same idea as we, & the nearest to Lake Tinaroo we could park was about 850 metres – & I think that was only because of the “Vietnam Veteran & Damn Proud” sticker we have on the front windscreen of the ute. There were many more vehicles as far as 2 kms away.
A little of the history behind the “Avenue of Honour”. In the early hours of June 21, 2010 three Australian soldiers and one American died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. One of those three Australians was 27 year old Private Benjamin Chuck, a sniper with the elite 2nd Commando Regiment. Ben came from Yungaburra, and as a lad he loved to be on or around Lake Tinaroo, nearby. After Ben’s death his parents, Gordon & Sue, often walked by the lake Ben loved and just as often thought of planting a tree nearby in his memory. This thought grew and blossomed, and after approaching the Tablelands Council the unused peninsular of land jutting out into the lake was set aside for the memorial. It is a stunning position for a very moving memorial – the only one in Australia which is not in a major/capital city. Funds were raised from donations, raffles, sausage sizzles and all places. Eventually enough money was raised to grow the initial $60,000 plan to the $300,000 national memorial it has now become.
See more at: (news.com.au/national-news/brothers-in-arms-an-ode-to-a-young-soldier)
The (then) Prime Minister was late, so the ceremony did not commence until well after 3pm. It was very moving, with a wonderful, unscripted speech by Cpl Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG who had served with many of those whose ultimate sacrifice was being honoured. Family members of the fallen soldiers laid floral tributes at the base of the memorial, as did most of the dignitaries. Ben & the Chief of Army performed the official opening, leaving Miss G out in the cold. And I thought this was the RIGHT way of doing things, as she had not earned the right to be there; she was only there by the accident of the position she held. (And a position she was to hold for only four days more).
The national flag was parachuted in just prior to commencement, and at the conclusion three Black Hawk helicopters performed a flypast. After the official programme was completed, those present were invited to sign a register, which I did – immediately under Tony Abbott, who graciously allowed himself to be photographed with me.
The Flag being parachuted in
The Memorial from Our ‘Vantage’ Point The Roll of Honour
Blackhawks in Flight The Crowds & The Wings
Just Exactly What It Says
A very emotional day. The Avenue is lined with Flame Trees, and throughout the park are planted Raintrees acknowledging the participation of our forces in all other theatres of war.
There is also a memorial to the EDD (Explosive Detection Dogs) – five of whom have died, also in service to their country. We met a couple EDDs – one retired & one still serving. Absolutely beautiful, faithful animals. And the bond between them and their human companion is so strong and also quite emotional to see.
The Brown Dog is with His Handler, In Memory of the Fallen EDDs
the Black One (Flo Joe) is Waiting for Hers
Lest We Forget . . .