FORMER rifleman David Edmond remembers the hostile reception that greeted some of Australia’s armed forces on their return from the Vietnam War.
“Originally, we weren’t welcomed,” Mr Edmond, of Wangi Wangi, recalled.
“So I didn’t join the [Returned and Services] league for many years.”
He eventually joined the RSL in April of 1997, and soon went on to serve in various roles at sub-branch and district level.
That dedication over two decades was rewarded on Friday – Vietnam Veterans Day – when Mr Edmond was awarded life membership of the national RSL.
The honour was bestowed in a presentation at Wangi RSL Club and, this time, the reception was one of generous applause and heartfelt congratulations.
“I feel very proud that the league has recognised my achievements,” Mr Edmond said.
I feel very proud that the league has recognised my achievements.- David Edmond
In his role as president of the Newcastle district of RSL sub-branches, Mr Edmond presides over 22 RSL sub-branches. He is also the senior vice-president of the Wangi Wangi RSL sub-Branch, where he has formerly served as president and secretary, among other roles.
Mr Edmond, a former sergeant, said he went to Vietnam in 1969.
“I was a rifleman and served with two battalions in Vietnam,” he said. “I came home on the HMAS Sydney in December of 1969.”
Mr Edmond said the RSL’s state body was enduring a tough period, but he was optimistic about its future.
“We now have the right people in the right jobs,” he said.
“My role is changing, and sub-branches will be becoming a lot more proactive under the guidelines from [new NSW RSL president] James Brown.”
Wangi Wangi RSL sub-Branch secretary Leigh Warren said having Mr Edmond’s life membership ratified was the culmination of a complex application and approval process that had spanned nine months.
Mr Warren said that in addition to Mr Edmond’s role as an official with the RSL, he had provided personal support and visits to ill and aged members, worked to recruit new members, acquired government grants, and provided expert advice to members on a range of issues.