by Jack Lawrie
REMEMBRANCE Ride Oz came to the North Burnett, honouring fallen Vietnam veterans in Biggenden and Monto.
Since June last year, 71-year-old Vietnam veteran Rob Eade has been on a mission: to travel across every state in Australia and lay a flag at war memorials for veterans who lost their lives in conflicts from the Vietnam War onward.
"I was inspired by an American named Mike Ehredt, who's run over 6000 miles and placed a flag every mile to honour American soldiers,” Mr Eade said.
"I set about researching everything and there's nothing that's been done on a national scale like this in Australia.”
Mr Eade started off in the town of Baldivis, WA with a motorbike and his service dog Ginge and has travelled roughly 22,000km from Western Australia, down along the southern coast then up through Victoria and New South Wales, into Queensland.
Mr Eade came to Biggenden last Wednesday and paid tribute to local-born soldier Sgt Colin McLachlan who died in Vietnam in a surprise enemy attack on February 18, 1968, age 38.
He then came up to Monto on the weekend and paid tribute to Vietnam veteran Phillip Goody at the RSL on Monday, along with Phillip's brother Narelle and her daughter Maree Marbach.
Mrs Goody got in touch with Mr Eade when she heard he was in town and asked to take part in the service for her brother, who died in Vietnam on May 1, 1970 at age 22.
Mr Eade said he gets especially emotional when something turns up from a family member.
After many attempts to reach out, he got in touch with Mike Ehredt to talk about his plan, and Mike's final piece of advice was to never give up until it was finished.
"While I'm going well I'm going to keep doing it, but every now and then I slow down and take a bit of time,” Mr Eade said.
"Narelle rang me up on Saturday and asked if I could have a look at some of the memorabilia she had, and I said 'Narelle thank you very much but no, I don't want to get too close to him' because I'm only human.”
With 600 fallen veterans to commemorate, he can't get too attached.
"I had a very disturbing day the other day down in Gympie, for a young lad named Birt whose mum and dad turned up and it just destroyed me because his family was younger than I am and they've lost a son,” Mr Eade said.
He has a strong belief that younger soldiers fighting and returning from current conflicts have it no better than he did in Vietnam.
"There's been 44 killed in Afghanistan and I think 49 suicides since they've come home, and that's because the people making decisions aren't giving them the due they deserve,” he said.
"We had quite a few in Vietnam as well because the government didn't want to look after them when they got home, and it's not fair.”