OUTRAGED veterans have labelled the actions of vandals who uprooted and stole a year-old Gallipoli Lone Pine memorial tree from the Emerald State High School parade ground as “disgusting”.
Emerald RSL branch president Noel Mallyon said members were finding it hard to come to grips with the contempt shown for a symbol of Australia’s proud war history.
“The RSL is just disgusted there was so very little respect shown, considering there is a plaque there as well,” he said.
“I was just devastated when (acting principal) Moya (Mohr) rang and told me on Monday.
“Students from grades 1 to 12 know some significance of the Anzacs, and we cannot comprehend why someone would do this; we just can’t.”
Former ESHS student Australian Army Captain Josie Bourne planted the seedling last year after the Anzac Day march in Emerald.
Capt Bourne and Commando Lance Corporal Jason Marks, killed in Afghanistan in April, 2008, were classmates.
“The Anzac tradition still carries on no matter where it was formed, and that tree represented that,” Mr Mallyon said.
“Its current meaning is especially shattering seeing that a past student planted it.”
Senior Sergeant Graeme Reeves said the vandals also appeared to have kicked out three fibro panels and damaged two fly screens in a school block overnight on Friday.
The contents of a fire extinguisher were also emptied near the northern side of the tuckshop.
The tree was removed from its protective guard in an area of the school grounds Ms Mohr only last week reminded students was out of bounds.
The damage was reported to police at 11am on Saturday.
Mr Mallyon said a replacement Lone Pine seedling had been ordered from the Australian War Memorial where the mother tree was planted in 1934.
The RSL has given a tree to every Emerald school that marches on Anzac Day, as well as Gindie and Comet.
“We went to a lot of effort to get the trees, one for each school, even though they’re fairly hard to come by,” Mr Mallyon said.
“What’s been done is done, unfortunately.”
Emerald CIB is investigating.
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