Cost of war hits close to home

A soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2009 was remembered with a floral tribute laid at the Millicent Cross of Sacrifice at the mid-morning Anzac Day service on Sunday.

Corporal Matthew Hopkins died in a gun battle with the Taliban and this devastated his comrade Luke Bohm. Luke’s parents laid the wreath and do so every Anzac Day wherever they are.

Bill and Sue Bohm only moved to Millicent from Camperdown five weeks ago but were determined to keep Matthew’s sacrifice known. “Matthew and Luke were best friends and were in the same platoon,” Mr Bohm said.

“Luke was in the field with Matthew on the day he was killed. “Matthew left behind a young wife and a baby boy.”

The involvement of the Bohms was one of the poignant moments of Millicent’s observation of Anzac Day. A degree of normality returned this year as the 2020 observation was curtailed owing to the COVID protocols.

The dawn service at the Cross of Sacrifice was attended by a gathering of 300. There was no community breakfast afterwards but 45 RSL members, veterans, Legacy Widows and their families met for a meal.

Later in the morning, dozens lined Millicent’s main street to honour wartime service and sacrifice. They cheered on the 60 Anzac Day marchers as well as those veterans driven in vintage cars provided by members of the Mount Gambier Vintage and Veteran Car Club.

Members of the Millicent Legacy Widows Club and Country Fire Service took part as well as many medal-wearing next-of-kin. The oldest participant aboard a gopher was 96-year-old Ted Davis.

He served with the RAAF in New Guinea during World War II. Another notable march participant was one-time infantry battalion blue heeler mascot dog Sgt Ridgeleigh Blue III.

The 11-year-old is now retired from army duties in Queensland and lives in Millicent with its new owner Priscilla Treloar. After the participants marched down George Street to the Cross of Sacrifice, a service attended by a gathering of 400 was held.

Attending the 30 minute service was World War II naval veteran Fred Ellis, several Vietnam War veterans as well as other ex-service personnel.

Prayers were offered by RSL chaplain and retired minister Pastor Paul Hales. The other speakers were Wattle Range Council Deputy Mayor Councillor Moira Neagle and Millicent RSL president Chris Mathias.

Cr Neagle described her late father’s wartime exploits as a rear gunner aboard Wellington bombers over the English Channel during World War II. She also paid tribute to World War I army nurse Margaret Sutherland, late of Millicent.

Mr Mathias referred to the recent passing of Prince Philip as well as the deaths of local veterans Lorna Bowman and Barry Sutcliffe. He said the day was an opportunity to consider selfless service to our nation.

“As the bugle sounds, spend a minute to reflect on these sacrifices,” Mr Mathias said.

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