Greg and his family keep spirit alive
Greg, treasurer, trustee and welfare officer for the Mullumbimby sub-branch of the RSL, was in the Royal Australian Navy for 12 years and made 10 trips to Vietnam on the troop carrier HMAS Sydney from 1968 to 1971.
His grandfather, Robert Anthony Grant, was in the 1st Battalion AIF at Gallipoli where he was wounded, probably at Lone Pine, later having a leg amputated.
Greg’s dad Ross was an Army infantryman who saw action on Bougainville in the second world war, and his mother, Audrey, served in the air force in an office job in Melbourne during the war.
Son Matthew continued the tradition and was in the RAN for about nine years, serving aboard a later version of HMAS Sydney which was in the Persian Gulf on blockade duty when the first Gulf War broke out.
Of his own war experience, Greg said his trips to Vietnam were ‘mostly monotonous, cramped and disgusting living conditions’.
But there were a couple of lighter moments.
They heard radio propaganda broadcaster ‘Hanoi Hanna’ twice say their ship had been sunk.
“It gave us a bit of a laugh at the time,” he said.
Then there was the time a fully-armed Iroquois helicopter turned up on a ‘special mission’ – to pick up a specially-made batch of pies made by a ship’s cook.
The armed servicemen in the helicopter said they wanted to make sure they got what they had ordered as the previous batch had been stolen.
Greg said his grandfather, who had taught him to swim in a Sydney Harbour pool, was a ‘wonderful, quiet, unassuming man’ who never spoke about his war experiences.
He said his father, who died in 1998, also remained silent about his time as a soldier. But he knew his father did have a phobia about flies after seeing them swarming around dead bodies.
Greg, who lives at Tyagarah, joined the RSL back in the 1970s, but never really became active in the movement until about nine years ago.
And now, of course, he is deeply involved in looking after the welfare of ex-service people in need.
Naturally, Anzac Day is a special day for him and he will start it at the Mullumbimby dawn service and will later join the march through the town.
“Clearly it’s a time for remembering and recognition for those who served,” he said.
“It’s also an education day. If you are going to keep the spirit and memory alive, I think you have to tell people what it’s all about.
“That message comes through loud and strong on Anzac Day.”