Betty Lockwood, Jacqueline McKenzie, Helen Taplin and Dorothy Angell. Photo: Chris HopkinsAll so quiet in a moment to remember the fallenThousands honour Western Front’s dead
Jacqueline McKenzie was found as a toddler, lying malnourished and sick with tuberculosis, alone on a rubbish tip in Bien Hoa about 1969.
The Vietnamese-born Australian was rescued as an orphan by Australian nurses who served at Bien Hoa Hospital.
She relays the story while sitting next to three women, in a shady spot near the Anzac Day march.The three women were civilian nurses at that same Bien Hoa Hospital.
Looking at the former nurses adoringly, Ms McKenzie says, “I wouldn’t be here, if I wasn’t found by them.”
Shortly after she was discovered, Ms McKenzie was nursed back to health and cared for at a nearby orphanage.
She was rescued as part of a private humanitarian effort opposed by the Australian and South Vietnamese governments but accomplished nevertheless by a determined Melbourne woman named Elaine Moir in 1972.
Ms McKenzie has joined a Facebook group set up for Vietnamese adoptees, and she plans to have her DNA tested in a bid to help find her relatives and uncover her roots.
“That’s my next chapter,” she says.
A sea of servicemen, servicewomen and their descendants are also probing their past.
Thousands of servicemen march behind their battalion banners through the city and down St Kilda Road to the Shrine of Remembrance. Some hold the hands of their children and grandchildren. Others march solemnly alone.
Descendants of soldiers carry faded portraits, lockets, and medals – small clues about their ancestors’ lives.
Current soldiers also join the sombre procession led by William Akell with Retired Lieutenant Dave Sabben.
It is 50 years since they served in the Battle of Long Tan – one of the most courageous victories in Australian military history, against overwhelming odds in August 1966.
Ltd Sabben was a platoon commander and Mr Akell was the radio operator, during the battle in the rubber plantation in Long Tan, where Australian and New Zealand troops were outnumbered 20 to one.
Mr Akell says like many veterans, he still grapples with the horror of what he has seen.
There is the haunting soundtrack of the battlefield: the pounding of the gunfire, the zooming of the helicopter, and the popping sound signalling incoming mortars.
Then, the horrific images which have frozen in time, of blood-stained foliage and shattered corpses.
“What artillery does to trees, and what it does to human bodies is unspeakable,” Mr Akell, who recalls waking up after the historic four-hour battle to find its bloody trail.
A nearby bagpipe player plays a wistful melody, as Retired Lieutenant Sabben describes the pain of his loss.
“It was our first battle,” says Lt Sabben. “While we’re growing older, we will always remember the blokes who remained 21.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.