Australia’s oldest living Victoria Cross recipient Keith Payne has visited Townsville to commemorate an exhibition honouring Australians awarded the highest military decoration.
Replicas of the Victoria Crosses and the portraits of the VC recipients are on display in the Army Museum of North Queensland.
Mr Payne, 85, received the VC after risking his life to save 40 wounded Australian, US and Vietnamese soldiers while under sustained enemy fire during a bloody battle in Vietnam in 1969.
“The recognition is nice because the declaration (VC) just doesn’t belong to me; there were a lot of soldiers there that night,” Mr Payne said.
“It’s all a part of history and it’s good for them to learn about what happened in those wars to give them the freedom they have today.
“And what they should treasure, they should really treasure the freedom that they’ve got in the nation.
“If they see a Digger down the street say thank you for your service.”
Mr Payne said this exhibition would serve as a reminder to the younger generations of the sacrifices made by their predecessors.
“It’s like for me when I think about the blokes in the First World War,” he said. “And during the Second World War, which is when I was brought up, it’s what introduced me to the uniform.”
Mr Payne said he would be spending Anzac Day in Adelaide.
Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kearns represented the Commander of the 3rd Brigade Brigadier Scott Winter.
Army Museum of North Queensland manager Major John Lavery said it was an opportunity for the community to gain a greater appreciation of the “heroic acts”.
“We don’t have many VC winners left, most of the Queenslanders are from World War I or II,” Maj Lavery said.
“Not only is the replica and their portrait on display, so is their citation for why they got the VC.”
Veteran Alan Miles, of Operation Pilgrimage, an organisation made up of former Special Forces personnel, set up the exhibition and said it had been shared all over the country.
The exhibition will finish tomorrow. It will temporarily travel to Mount Isa before coming back permanently to Townsville.
The display is open to the public between 9am and 1pm.
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