RAAF Vietnam Veterans Association


The Repatriation of
Flying Officer Mike Herbert and Pilot Officer Bob Carver

FLGOFF Mike Herbert (Pilot)PLTOFF Bob Carver (Navigator)2 Squadron RAAF Crest

Museum Chaplain’s Address

Vietnam Service Ribbons
The Vietnam Veterans National Museum
31 AUGUST 2009

Extract from the Address by the Museum Chaplain
Laurie Dawson

Good Morning all

Last week Gary [Parker] asked me to contribute with a short message today.

I puzzled over the nature of this occasion. Would you categorize it as a ceremony? Is it a service, a commemoration, a dedication, a memorial, or a wake??

On reflection I came to the conclusion that it is the opportunity for a celebration.

In the best sense of the word it has to be a celebration.

The celebration of an ideal – the ideal we describe as mateship; but at its roots is our capacity to unselfishly love our fellow man.

The English language is deficient when we come to describe love.

The ancient Greeks had at least four words to describe love.

  • Agape… spiritual sacrificial love
  • Eros… sensual, sexual, erotic love
  • Storge… family affection
  • Philia… a dispassionate virtuous friendship or brotherly love or love for fellow mankind; hence we get words like philanthropic and Philadelphia

What we celebrate today is an excellent example of pure philia love: the love or mateship ethic that requires that we never abandon one of our own. We endeavour to never leave one of our own behind.

There were only six Australian servicemen unaccounted for out of over 500 Killed in Action after 10 years of fighting. This in itself is a remarkable testimony to the spirit of the ideal we recognize and celebrate today.

40 years on and we are all older, greyer, and I hope wiser.

The immediate sharp grief that we may have felt on the loss of our Missing In Action personnel is long gone, to be replaced with a sad acceptance of the reality. They, like us, have long since been consigned to the historical records by the population at large.

But, to their credit, many have kept alive their memory through the maintenance of these memorial bracelets.

Today, closure is achieved on another aspect of our Vietnam experience. The bracelets are all closed. The mission is successfully concluded. The last of the Missing In Action have been returned to home soil.

This has been the culmination of years of dedicated and arduous work by a small dedicated group of Vietnam Veterans who have succeeded in achieving what was thought to be a virtual impossibility: to locate and return the remains of our 6 MIA.

Jim Bourke, as instigator and leader of the group, deserves our highest honour and praise for his efforts.

True brotherly love is much more about action than emotion. The attributes of loyalty and perseverance motivate men to go to heroic lengths to support a mate. We see the result of the outworking of these ethics with the ceremonial arrival today at Richmond RAAF base, of 2 caskets containing the last of the mortal remains of… Pilot Officer Robert Carver and… Flying Officer Michael Herbert.

I reflect on the fact that when I arrived home from SVN in 1968, I was blessed to be able to walk unaided down that C130 ramp. I was able to kneel down and kiss the tarmac.

There is something special about coming home to Australia. We owe our deceased nothing less than their own special homecoming.

My hope is that the generation following us note the example set by Jim Bourke and his supporters and absorb it into their collective character traits.

Certainly, I believe our current serving men and women are the equal of their forebears. We can be proud of our sons and daughters who currently serve their nation overseas.

So today let us celebrate the lives of our once lost, but now found – fellow servicemen – with an attitude of gratitude remembering all those who gave their all that we may be free and secure.

We honour them by fully participating in the liberty that their contribution has made possible.

Let Us Pray

Heavenly Father we thank you and are grateful for the liberty, freedom and bountiful supply we enjoy as Australians.

We are mindful that we are blessed above most others in this world. Help us to act worthy of the blessings and calling you have endowed us with. Help us to maintain Christian virtues in all we do and say that others may share in our good fortune.

As we remember our MIA and those who have faithfully served to locate them we pray:

… for those that grieve… give them comfort
… for those that strive… give them rest
… for those who are troubled… give them peace
… and for those whose health is failing... restore their strength

We ask this in and through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ


Thank You and may God bless you each and every one.