IT may have taken nearly five decades, but Gerringong veteran John Zarb has finally been acknowledged for his military service, eradicating lingering bitterness.
He now looks forward to participating in this year’s Anzac Day march.
Mr Zarb, who served as an aircrewman with the Royal Australian Air Force in Vietnam, was finally awarded his medals at a ceremony at the Gerringong RSL recently, 49 years after returning from Vietnam.
Mr Zarb, 75, flew in and out of Vietnam from Malaysia and Thailand from July to December 1965, providing support to Australian ground forces and transporting coffins containing the bodies of Australian soldiers killed in action.
“It was a service to the country,” he said.
“We were there, not because we wanted to, [but] because we were sent, but that was it.”
On his return Mr Zarb applied for medals arising from his operational service but was told he was not entitled to any.
“I was never granted any war service recognition,” he said.
“I believe the reason given for non-recognition was due to not meeting requirements of the act.
“We were never posted to Vietnam; we went in and out of there in support of the troops.
“Non-recognition of my military service may have deprived me and my family of some possible benefits over time, and left me with a tinge of bitterness – but life goes on.”
Mr Zarb served in the RAAF from 1956-68.
Prior to joining Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch last year, Mr Zarb said he never participated in such an organisation due to feeling bitter.
Last year, Vietnam veteran Rod Orford approached barrister and Afghanistan veteran Glenn Kolomeitz to help Mr Zarb receive due recognition.
He found Mr Zarb was entitled to three medals.
They were the Australian Active Service Medal 1945-1975 with clasp saying Vietnam, the Vietnam Logistics and Support Medal and the Australian Defence Medal as well as the Returned from Active Service Badge.
“A wrong was done to me 49 years ago, and finally it’s been corrected,” Mr Zarb said.
“It lifted the bitterness, and my family were tickled pink.
“For a guy my age, it’s a great thing to be finally recognised.”
Mr Kolomeitz represented Mr Zarb as a volunteer advocate with the Illawarra Veterans’ Entitlement Service located at Jamberoo.
“This has been a long time coming and I look forward to marching alongside John this Anzac Day,” Mr Kolomeitz said.
Mr Zarb thanked Gerringong RSL for its assistance.
“I will definitely be marching in Gerringong with my friends this year,” he said with a smile.
It’s a case of marching with people I belong with.”