Anzac Day 2017: Goondiwindi veterans remembered in war time stories

Lest we forget: Sapper Greg Brady was 22 when he was killed in Vietnam almost 50 years ago. He will be remembered at a service in Goondiwindi on Anzac Day.

Lest we forget: Sapper Greg Brady was 22 when he was killed in Vietnam almost 50 years ago. He will be remembered at a service in Goondiwindi on Anzac Day.

War is bloody, raw and sudden.

“A see you mate,” wrenched into sadness and loss along with fading memories of a beer and laughter.

And if you survive, you are left to deal with the hollow places where mates once took centre stage.

Innocence too is like that.

Last week we were contacted by Ross McKenzie from Port Kembla in NSW.

“G’day, it is 50 years on May 20 since a son of your town was killed alongside his mate in South Vietnam,” he said.

“His name was Greg Brady and his mate was John O’Hara from my home town, Goondiwindi.

“They were both in the first or second intake of National Servicemen and both died aged 22 and within 12 weeks of coming home.

I have vague memories of Greg returning to Gundy weeks before because of a family problem. I think it would be nice to do a tribute piece on him for any remaining family and friends, as rightly or wrongly, he gave his life for his country.

Ross McKenzie

“I have vague memories of Greg returning to Gundy weeks before because of a family problem. I think it would be nice to do a tribute piece on him for any remaining family and friends, as rightly or wrongly, he gave his life for his country.”

Greg Brady has often been mentioned at Anzac Day services in Goondiwindi over the years, testimony to how wars far, far away have tragic consequences for the smallest of towns and communities.  

But that tragedy runs deeper than many would know.

In January, 1967, Sapper Greg Vincent Brady, 22, of Goondiwindi was back home in the warm embrace of his mother and friends. He went to sleep in his own bed and Vietnam must have felt such a long, long way away.

The Bradys lived in Francis Street. Sadly he was only allowed back home to attend the funeral of his father.

And within days, he was back on a flight to a country he would have hardly heard of two years before.

Australia paid for that flight, and one when he returned, his coffin buffed and polished, four months later.

He was killed after a mine he was laying detonated.

A Goondiwindi boy, Sapper Greg Brady, died in Vietnam almost 50 years ago.

Many argue his death should never have happened. He and a mate, John O’Hara, were laying mines in South Vietnam in 1967. It was part of a plan to isolate the Vietcong which failed.

Former Australian Army officer and author Greg Lockhart was scathing.

Blinded by imperial hubris, the minefield shows how Australian and American forces received a bitter lesson in guerrilla warfare and the uses of technology.

Former Australian Army officer Greg Lockhart

“Blinded by imperial hubris, the minefield shows how Australian and American forces received a bitter lesson in guerrilla warfare and the uses of technology,” he said.

Goondiwindi veteran Ken Jenkins later played a part in “cleaning up” the mines. A “clean up” which he says should never have had to happen.

“They [the Americans] were warned against the construction which was to stop Vietcong access to villages. It didn’t work. In fact it was a disaster,” he said.

It wasn’t only mines. The Vietcong were expert at repairing bombs which had not detonated.

We spoke to Ken 12 months ago. He bought up Greg Brady with sadness. 

“He was killed when he dropped an m16 ‘Jumping Jack’ mine,” he said. The mine was about the size of a large jam tin, about 10cm in diameter and 12cm high.

The mine was usually lethal within a 25m radius, was known to have killed at 75, and was dangerous to 200m.