Emerald respects our diggers

Jack Makim, right, playing two-up.
Jack Makim, right, playing two-up.

LIKE so many other Australians, April 25 has profound personal significance for Emerald's Jack Makim.

A simple rum and milk or a game of two-up runs deeper than the surface for Jack. Each year it is these traditions that enable him to honour his family members who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Jack's grandfather, Alexander (Wilga Bill) Makim, played an integral role in one of the most significant battles of the infamous Kokoda campaign. Wilga Bill served in the 2nd/1st Battalion during the Second World War.

Serving under the famous Cl Paul Cullen, he was involved in the battle at Eora Creek, where he spent nine days trapped on the Northern side of Eora under constant gunfire from the mountains.

His section, known as the "Steady Sixth", took cover from "Jukki" machine guns and mortars until the Japanese could be outflanked and sent retreating for the first time.

"The casualties speak for themselves," Jack said.

"There were 99 Australian soldiers killed and 192 wounded."

The Steady Sixth were the only men from the 2nd /1st Battalion under the command of Lt Ted Body from "Bundemar Merino Stud" of southern New South Wales.

They walked to Kokoda Station to pick up supplies for starving mates and returned along the now famous trail.

"From there, they cut across country on a native trail and cut-off the retreating Japanese at Gorari, inflicting massive casualties on them," Jack said.

"He served in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, and also trained for jungle warfare in Sri Lanka in preparation for the Kokoda Trail.

"It was an honour to have known my grandad who died in 2003, aged 90.

"(April 25) is a day to remember what he did and the price so many of his comrades paid for what we have today.

"This year I enjoyed a small win playing two-up and attended my first dawn service in Emerald, which I usually spend with my family at a small memorial in the country town of North Star, New South Wales."

Wilga Bill raised funds at the North Star Memorial for nearly 50 years.

Attendance numbers grow

EX-SERVICEMAN Len Woods said Wednesday's dawn service was the biggest he had ever attended in Emerald.

He said the icing on the cake however, was the number of young people present.

"I have been to them every year since 1975, and the Emerald services since I arrived here in 1994," Mr Woods said.

Mr Woods was in the Royal Australian Corps of Signals from 1975-1995, a special corps of the Australian Army responsible for installing, maintaining and operating all telecommunications equipment and information systems.

"It was great to see so many young ones out there. We need that support as we go forward," Mr Woods said.

"I think the day is about remembering the fallen in all wars, not just World War One or Two.

"There has been quite a few (wars) over the years and we hope to never have another one either.

"I was in Cadets in school and Dad was in the Army so it was just a natural progression for me to join."

Mr Woods said the country needed more people in the Army.

"It is a totally different world in the Army. For instance, I am an employer and there is no way I could talk to employees like I would in the Army. But the discipline and mateship you get from the experience overshadows anything," Mr Woods said.

"The good outweighs the bad by 100 to one.

"The mateship is second to none.

"I would recommend joining the Army, or any defence force, to anyone."


Anzac Day in Somalia poignant memory

DAVE Murchie served in the 6th Battalion in the Royal Australian Regiment as an infantry soldier before deciding he didn't want to miss his daughters growing up.

He also served in the Special Air Service as a trooper and eventually as an SAS signal technician.

"I served in Somalia in 1992 for seven months in what they called the 'peacemaking operation', to relieve the famine," Dave said.

"It was interesting, I guess at that stage the army hadn't been overseas for about 20 years so there was a lot of stuff that had to be relearned."

Dave and his small contingency of six joined Pakistanis, Americans and other nationalities in Somalia.

"We had an Anzac day in Somalia which was particularly effective. Our guest of honour was the Turkish general, and the Kiwis were there so it was a real Anzac Day - dawn on the beach in Mogadishu, (it was a) very meaningful experience."

When he arrived home from his service, Dave and his wife decided it was time for him to stay home.

"My youngest daughter was six months old when I left and she had learned to walk while I was away. It was hard missing those moments in my family's life," he said.

"It was a big decision to move on and do other things.

"It's a good experience, there are stressful moments but you work together to work through those moments.

"The old clichés about mateship and that sort of thing really do apply. Particularly in active service when each other is really all you have in foreign lands."

Corporal follows grandfathers lead

CORPORAL Joe Jackson joined the Navy as an apprentice at the age of 16.

He served for nine years before deciding to return to being a civilian.

"I think because I was so young and I think it was the discipline from a young age," Joe said.

"I just needed a break, and I wanted to do some travel as well, so I travelled around the world for a year.

"I was out for about two years and then decided I didn't like it that much and I wanted to get back into the services.

"I decided to join the Air Force, and have been serving for 10 years as an aircraft mechanic based in Townsville. I'm responsible for the serviceability for the aircraft and make sure they're good to fly."

He did two tours of Iraq in 2005 and 2008 and is proud to have served the country just as his grandfather did.

"My fondest memory is coming back from my first tour in Iraq and going to my grandfather's RSL. He was a serving member in Iraq as well and it was really special being welcomed back into (the) RSL community with him."

Joe is now working with the airfield operational support squad, and was at the Emerald Anzac Day celebrations to represent the Air Force.

"It was the first time in a lot of years that they've had representation of all three services in Emerald," he said.

The soon-to-be grandfather now teaches skills he has gained in the military to children at the Emerald Outdoor Education Centre.


Soldier remembers good times and bad

FOR Brett Pearce, Anzac Day is one of the most difficult days of the year.

Brett, a field serviceman, lives in Emerald with his family and attends the Anzac ceremony each year. He is proud to have served his country in the Australian Army.

"It's a bit of a rough day today - this is our day," Brett said.

"It just brings back memories that you try to get rid of all year, and they just come back.

"But we were lucky enough to have no casualties."

Brett, who was based in Townsville in the 3rd Brigade in the Royal Australian Regiment as an infantry rifleman, was deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2005.

He recalls his three months in the Solomon Islands, where his troop provided added support to the local and Australian Federal Police in enforcing the rule of law and restoring order in the islands.

"We went there and the place was just on fire," he said.

"We were like a restabilisation party, so we made the naughty people not be naughty anymore."

Brett was deployed to East Timor in 2006 for six months and then Afghanistan for four months in 2010.

"I'm getting too old for it now - it's a young man's army," he said.

"It's time for the young fellas to step up and hopefully they do a good job of it."

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