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FAC Reunion and Memorial Dedication 2002:
by Bill Ernst, Rustic 04
The FAC memorial was dedicated on April 13, 2002 in Punchbowl Cemetery before a crowd of about 330 people. The 15th ABW Honor Guard provided the Color Guard, Firing Party and Wreath Bearers; the 15th ABW provided a Chaplain; the Air Force Band of the Pacific provided the music, anthems and taps; the University of Hawaii AFROTC detachment provided cadets to greet, usher, and seat attendees; the Australian Consulate General attended; the New Zealand Honorary Consul and the Mayor of Honolulu sent representatives to participate; and the FAC Assn., both Consulates and the Mayor provided four large floral wreaths to honor the fallen. Two local pilots flew an O-1 and an 0-2A over the ceremony as the monument was unveiled.
The Hawaii Reunion 2002 committee members want to thank all of the donors for making it possible to create and install a lasting tribute to all of the American, Australian and New Zealand aviators who served together in Southeast Asia.Editors note: Bill Ernst impressed his colleagues on the FR2002 planning committee by his diligence and attention to detail. If I were writing his ER, I'd put all the Xs to the farthest right they could go and recommend him for any project you'd want zero defects performance. Along with him, Mike Cavanaugh deserves special mention for his work as Chairman of Protocol and Banquet MC.
Dedication Remarks and Pictures, National Cemetery of the Pacific
Air Commodore Bruce Wood, RAAF, Ret. Helix 33
0V-10 FAC and Mirage 3 pilot
"Consulate General of Australia, Mr. Robiliard, Mr. Biddle, representing the Honorary Consul for New Zealand, Mr. Au, representing the Mayor of Honolulu, BRIG. GEN. Richards, CDR 154TH Wing Hawaii Air National Guard, fellow Forward Air Controllers, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my honour to represent the Australian and New Zealand Forward Air Controllers who served with the United States Air Force in Vietnam. However, not all US FACs came into contact with Aussie or Kiwi FACs during their time in Vietnam, and I am aware that some still don't know of the `Down Under' contribution. Our commitment, though modest in quantity was, we hope and believe, large in quality and spirit, and spanned the years of 1966 to 1971 – in all 36 Australians and 14 New Zealand FACs served in the US 7th Air Force during the conflict. The `Down under" FACs were fully integrated into the USAF units with their own parent Air Forces responsible for only their pay and allowances. Such was the integration that USAF FACs often found themselves in support of Aussie or Kiwi ground units and most Aussies and Kiwis spent their tour in support of US Army units.
Many writers have described the unique association of men thrown into combat together as 'Brothers-in-arms' – this description was never truer than the 'brotherhood' of Forward Air Controllers in Vietnam. Airmen from the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand, who had a difficult, dangerous and, arguably, a very vital role in the conflict known as the Vietnam War, developed strong bonds of professional respect, and in many cases, close friendships which have continued and strengthened through the 30 years since the end of our commitment to the conflict. We truly feel part of the FAC brotherhood.
Vietnam was not the first conflict in which our three countries have fought together, nor was it the last. As we gather here today our countries are joined together in the `War Against Terror". Australian Special Air Service personnel have played a vital role in the current Afghanistan campaign fighting on the ground alongside US Special Forces, and Australian Air Force F18s are deployed in support of the operation at an undisclosed location in the Indian Ocean. The reason we find ourselves together in these conflicts is because our countries, our societies, share similar moral standards, a love for freedom and democracy, and a fierce determination to protect our countries from anyone or anything, which threatens our freedom.
We also share a willingness and the courage to help our friends and others, who through being weak, militarily or economically, find themselves in danger of subjugation by evil regimes. We are here today to dedicate a memorial to Forward Air Controllers, who did not question the need for their service to their country, and many of whom paid the ultimate price for their loyalty and dedication. We do this because our countries owe those who gave their lives a debt, and we do not want them to be forgotten. Moreover, we must ensure that we not only remember those who died, but that we do not forget why we served, what we were fighting for; for if we allow our countries, our societies to forget or ignore those basic beliefs and moral standards which I mentioned earlier, then we will truly have failed those who have given their lives in the pursuit of freedom and democracy.
In commemoration of our mates, who we are honouring here today, we Australians and New Zealanders have shared with you the special ODE which we reserve for our fallen warriors. The ODE is inscribed on the marker we dedicate today and comes from World War I when Australia and New Zealand banded together to form a Corps known as the ANZACS – they fought an unwinnable battle and endured incredible hardships with great bravery at a place called Gallipoli in Turkey.
The ODE, which is a verse from the poem by Laurence Binyon entitled "For The Fallen", has been used since 1921 in commemorative services for Australian and New Zealanders who have given their lives in service of their countries in war. The ODE is also recited every evening at sunset in our Returned Servicemen Leagues Clubs, and today we wish to share it with you, our brothers in arms – the ODE says it all:
THEY SHALL GROW OLD, NOT AS WE THAT ARE LEFT GROW OLD; AGE SHALL NOT WEARY THEM, NOR THE YEARS CONDEMN. AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM LEST WE FORGET"
Left to Right: Col. Mike Connors (in the back, only his head is visable),USAF, Ret.; Mrs. Doris Day; Col. Alvin Au,USAR, Ret.; Col. Bud Day, USAF, Ret. (Medal of Honor); Col. Gene Castagnetti, USMC, Ret. Director of National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl)
Col. William Ernst, USAF, Ret., Master of Ceremonies, Rustic FAC
FACs, family and friends
Col. Gene Castagnetti, USMC, Ret., Director of National Memorial
Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl)
B/Gen. "Putt" Richards, Cmdr. 154th Wing, HANG, Hickam AFB,
0V-10 FAC and F4 pilot
Mr. Paul Robilliard, Esq., Consulate General of Australia
presenting Australian wreath
Mr. Scott Biddle, President of New Zealand/USA Connection Club
presenting New Zealand wreath. (Mr. Peter Lewis, Honorary Consul
for New Zealand, was away on a trip and could not attend)
Col. Alvin Au, USAR, Ret. presenting Mayor of Honolulu wreath
15ABW Honor Guard, SSgt. Ed Sarmiento, NCOIC
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