Keeping the memories alive

ON May 28, 1965, approximately 800 Australians made up of servicemen and support teams arrived on the shores of South Vietnam.

Amongst them was a 25-year-old, Peter McMahon, who had left his wife and three infant children in an army village in Sydney.

The Australian servicemen were assigned to join the American 173rd Airbone Brigade.

"There were no other Australians there so we were told to join the Americans," Mr McMahon said.

With less than a months notice, Mr McMahon and others were snuck out of Sydney in the middle of the night without a single goodbye to loved ones.

"We were going into the unknown," Mr McMahon said.

"We had no idea of what we were getting ourselves into."

When asked what his initial thought was when he arrived in Vietnam, Mr McMahon chuckled.

"I was loading a Land Rover and trailer onto a small aircraft which flew to Bien Hoa. The plane landed and so I got the vehicle out. Then the plane took off and there I was. Just me, no one else. Didn't know where I was and couldn't even remember if I had live ammunition in my riffle. Then there was an American officer around the corner and he was lost too. So we both headed off and found where we were going."

After a long year of serving in Vietnam, he was posted back to Sydney where he continued to serve in the army.

He performed a range of tasks and held a number of titles before his service in the army concluded on June 8, 1985 when he retired.

Since then Mr McMahon has continued to work to help make better living conditions for Australian ex-servicemen and their families.

"It's important to raise money for the local families of those who have served," Mr McMahon said.

In 1998, he became the President of the Cooma Monaro Branch of the RSL and currently holds this title where he assists and organises special events like Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

"The most important thing about Anzac Day is keeping the memories of the past alive and passing them onto the young people of today so they can appreciate what they have now," he said.

Mr McMahon is on the judging panel for the Anzac of the Year Awards which will be announced on Friday at the Cenotaph at 11am.

Peter McMahon’s service history

1967: Posted as Drill and Weapons Instructor in Kapooka.

1968: Promoted to Sergeant where he filled the roles of Platoon Sergeant, Platoon Commander for three years and then Regimental Police Sergeant for two years.

1970: Was requested by Sir Roden Cutler V.C to break the Royal Standard Flag for Queen Elizabeth’s royal visit to the Government House.

1972: Became a regimental drill instructor in Victoria to train the Ceremonial Guard and Parade Formats.

1976: Posted as a Staff Company Quarter Master Sergeant

1978: Posted to Kapooka and was responsible for maintaining clothing and equipment.

1980: Posted to Port Moresby as a Housing Officer responsible for maintaining supply stores for 250 houses occupied by families of the Australian Defence Force.

1980: Became President of the Ella Beach RSL Youth Clubs.

1982: Posted as Warrant Office Class 2 to the WRAAC School of Mosman.

1985: Retired on June 8 after 24 years in the Army.

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