What a pleasure it was for Michael C. Madden to walk in the footsteps of heroes and record their achievements for posterity.
Mr Madden did this when he researched and wrote ‘The Victoria Cross, Australia Remembers’ on the 100 Australian Victoria Cross (VC) recipients.
The profiles, in the book, reveals how these men came from every walks of life and shows the rich colour of the families and communities they came from.
Mr Madden is in the Shoalhaven to take part in tomorrow’s (Saturday, July 28) Digger Day celebrations at Rugby Park, South Nowra.
The author was also the guest speaker at an event on Thursday at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre where he signed copies of his glorious book.
Speak to Mr Madden and you realise straight away the effort he put into the book was a labour of respect and awe.
“The VC is just cool and is the highest award for valour in the face of the enemy on the planet and has a mystic like nothing else.”Michael C. Madden
Meeting the person behind the medal is something Mr Madden appreciates.
“It makes you realise that sometimes you look at military histories, like World War One and World War Two, almost like The Lord of the Rings as this fantastic fable type thing,” he said.
“Then when you meet any veterans and particularly VC recipients it reminds you they are people and that conflict was part of their lives.
“They are normal people but are so humble and so unassuming.”
The legendary Keith Payne, a regular at Digger Day, was one of the humble and unassuming people Mr Madden talked about.
“Keith is about as genuine and straight down the line as they come. Keith is friendly, engaging and patient,” Mr Madden said.
“Keith cares immeasurably about his fellow veterans and he does an awful lot of work behind the scenes for veteran welfare.”
Mr Madden said Keith Payne greets and treats people all the same.
“It speaks to the humility of the man,” Mr Madden said.
See more about Keith Payne below.
“The only thing I found that these men (the VC recipients) have in common is humility,” Mr Madden said.
“They are all so different but they share that trait (humility) and it makes sense when you think about it because you would not get out of the trench and do the things these men do if you were not a humble person.
“If you were in it for self-gratification, glory or promotion then you would not run down a machine gun or go out under fire which Keith did.”
Students from Nowra Public and Nowra East Public came to Thursday’s event to hear Mr Madden speak.
“I just love it,” he said about getting the chance to speak to school children.
“The Victoria Cross is such a wonderful tool to use to get young people interested in military history.
“The VC is just cool and is the highest award for valour in the face of the enemy on the planet and has a mystic like nothing else.”
Mr Madden said the likes Keith Payne and Johnson Beharry, who was also at Thursday’s event, would inspire a young person.
“They start reading about Keith Payne, Johnson Beharry and the late Albert Jacka and get hooked,” Mr Madden said.
“ Albert Jacka is a great one and you start reading about him and discover the depth and the breadth of his story and the stories behind all these men and you're hooked.
“You start learning and these kids remember what they learnt because they care.”
Mr Madden is travelling all over Australia talking about his book.
“The response from the communities and the families of the VCs recipients, which is important, has been really good,” he said
The book was published in April this year, just in time for Anzac Day, and was about four-and-a-half-years in the making.
Mr Madden will be at Diggers Day tomorrow and the book at the event and are also on sale at Dymocks.
Keith Payne’s bravery
On February 24 1969 Keith Payne was appointed to the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam.
In May that year he was commanding the 212th Company of the 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion when it was attacked by a strong North Vietnamese force.
His company was isolated and, surrounded on three sides, Keith's Vietnamese troops began to fall back.
Keith, by now wounded in the hands and arms and under heavy fire, covered the withdrawal before organising his troops into a defensive perimeter.
He then spent three hours scouring the scene of the day’s fight for isolated and wounded soldiers, all the while evading enemy troops, who kept up harassing fire.
Keith found some 40 wounded men, brought some in himself and organised for the rescue of the others, leading the party back to base through enemy-dominated terrain.
Source: Australian War Memorial.
What is on for Diggers Day 2018
Shoalhaven Diggers Day chairman Rick Meehan said the event has been more than three years in the making and kicks-off at Rugby Park at 10.30am tomorrow (Saturday July 27).
Starting the festivities will be the second grade clash between local rivals Shoalhaven Rugby Club and Kiama, which will be followed by the day’s special guests, including numerous Victoria Cross recipients, being flown into the ground by navy helicopter just after noon.
Once landed, the helicopters will be parked on the top grounds for patrons to check out during the day.
After the special guests have arrived, there will be a last post ceremony, followed by the first grade clash between Shoals and Kiama, which will of course be kicked-off by Luke Meehan.
Both teams will be sporting specially designed commemorative jerseys.
The day at Rugby Park will be concluded by third grade’s clash with Kiama before the festivities continue at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre with the Diggers Day Ball.