Medal will soothe the wounds of grief

A SPECIAL medal presentation ceremony for a RAN member who died in October will be held in Nowra on Saturday.

Chief Petty Officer Kane Vandenberg, 46, died while taking part in the Defence Mountain Bike Championship at Mt Stromlo.

A highly respected member of the navy’s aircraft engineering staff, he spent most of his career at HMAS Albatross and in more recent times was based in Canberra.

CPO Vandenberg’s widow Margaret and their sons Joshua, Hayden and Lachlan will be presented with the Graywood Medal by the president of the Korean War Recognition Committee Bob Morris.

The Graywood Medal is awarded with gratitude and honour to those service personnel who have been wounded, injured or have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.

There is no medal within the Australian Honours Awards that recognises the service of those personnel who are permanently suffering, or those who have selflessly given their lives in the service of Australia.

The medal was designed and developed by the Korean War Veterans Association and has been issued since 2010.

It has been presented to many veterans, widows and family members from the Korean and Vietnam wars.

CPO Vandenberg will be the first of his generation to receive it.

Mrs Vandenberg said it is a great honour for

her and her boys to see their husband and father honoured.

“It means so much to us,” she said.

“To be the first Fleet Air Arm personnel to receive the award is incredible.

“Kane gave 29 years of service to the navy. People will say he didn’t die in the service of his country, that he had signed on the dotted line, he could have gone to war if required – I have the same loss as an Afghanistan widow.”

National secretary of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Middle East Veterans Association of Australia Rick Meehan said there was no recognition for military personnel who are killed, wounded or injured in service of their country.

“People believe there are honours out there but there aren’t,” he said.

“The US has the Purple Heart, the British the Elizabeth Medal, the Canadians the Sacrifice Medal, but Australia has nothing.

“And members of the public are shocked when they hear that.”

Mr Meehan said in Afghanistan Australia lost 40 personnel while a further 260 odd were maimed for life.

“They get nothing,” he said.

“There are bereavement pins and the army gives out Australia flags in a Jarrah boxes but there

are no medals.

“It is important we start recognising the current generation now – we don’t want to wait 60 odd years to get the recognition they deserve, like the Korean vets have had to.”

The Graywood committee is still lobbying the federal government to adopt the medal under the honours and awards system or to have the government produce their own.

The medal presentation will take place at the Nowra RSL Sub-Branch Hall in Junction Street, Nowra (next to the Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen’s Club) on Saturday from 11am and members of the public are invited to attend.

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