Monday, 8 February 2016
National Servicemen's Day
This Valentine's Day is also National Servicemen's Day, a day which marks the date when the last national servicemen, or 'nashos', completed their Army obligations. That was in 1972. For the 20 years before that last day nashos provided 287,000 personnel to bolster their forces across different nasho schemes. For most of the time nashos were called on to alleviate the Communist threat—a threat that had become aggressive in 1951 across Malaya and Vietnam. But there were also other theatres of war where our nashos lent a hand, including Korea, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, just to name a few.
Yesterday we commemorated their service with a wreathlaying ceremony at St Marys. I would like to acknowledge Ron Brown OAM, JP, the State President of the New South Wales NSA, who was present, as well as John Taylor JP, President of the Penrith city ANSA, Mick McConnell and Tony Fryer from the Penrith and St Marys subbranches and Tony Mullavey, the President of the Vietnam Veterans' Association at the St Marys' Outpost Subbranch—not to mention the local police and local dignitaries, including Councillor Karen McKeown, the Mayor of Penrith, and the state member for Mulgoa, Tanya Davies.
Many of our nashos saw active service. Many were called up through a ballot system. As we became more deeply involved in Vietnam, on 10 March 1965, the first nasho's birthday was drawn out of the lottery barrel. Over the next seven years a total of 63,740 young Australian men would be drafted into the army, with the prospect of being sent to war—212 men, 212 Australians, would pay the ultimate sacrifice. We must never forget them. Between the war fronts and the peacekeeping duties our nashos served on the home front too. They played an important role in cleaning up after floods, rebuilding after fire and picking up after cyclones.
I paid some thought this year and I request you all on 14 February this year to pay some thought to our national servicemen. In a strange way, I think there is a good marriage between that of Valentine's Day and that of love. Our national servicemen have surely demonstrated love to our country, love to our regions and have really loved each other as mates. I thank them for their contribution. Lest we forget.