Another AUST Vietnam war MIA Returned

Family thank fallen Digger's matesArticle from: AAPFont size: Decrease Increase Email article: Email Print article: Print December 19, 2007 04:14pm
A DIGGER returned home today, after 37 years, to a family who now has something to touch.

Lance Corporal John Francis Gillespie died in Vietnam in April 1971, seven months after he arrived there, when the helicopter he was in was shot down as it attempted to recover a wounded Vietnamese soldier.

From that time, until last week, the remains of the army medic had lain buried under wreckage and three decades of dirt and undergrowth on the hillside where the chopper crashed.

But thanks to the persistence and loyalty of a group of ex-servicemen who had vowed to look after their mates, Lance Corporal Gillespie has made it back.

A C130 Hercules aircraft carrying his remains home from Vietnam landed today at the RAAF's Point Cook air base near Melbourne.

For his widow and his brother and sisters, the overwhelming emotion has been relief.

But for his daughter, Fiona Pike, who was two years old when he died, it means she again has a father.

"I've never been able to touch my father, I can now," she said.

After a service at Point Cook today, Lance Corporal Gillespie's widow Carmel Hendrie spoke of her gratitude to the ex-servicemen whose persistence and loyalty had led to the return of her husband's remains.

"To them I say 'thank you', and to the government who helped so much," Mrs Hendrie said. "But this is for my daughter. Fiona and her sons now have somewhere to go and say 'hello'."

Lance Corporal Gillespie, 24, was thrown from his aircraft when it hit the ground and was trapped underneath as it rolled on him.

The rest of the crew were rescued later the same day, but the heat from the wreckage prevented a thorough search for his body.

Lance Corporal Gillespie's remains were finally recovered, largely through the efforts of the ex-serviceman's group Operation Aussies Home.

Thanks to their efforts, Lance Corporal Gillespie's remains left Hanoi on Monday and landed at Point Cook today, where full military honours - a band, a guard of honour and a medal - awaited him.

Military precision, however, briefly failed when the rear loading bay door of the Hercules plane that brought him home declined to open.

Brute force duly prevailed and the man whose mates came home in similar planes in 1972, was carried out of this one on the shoulders of six servicemen and women.

Lance Corporal Gillespie was one of 500 Australians killed during the country's decade-long involvement in Vietnam, and was one of six whose bodies couldn't be recovered at the time.

The remains of two of them, Lance Corporal Richard Parker and Private Peter Gilson, had previously been recovered through the efforts of Operation Aussies Home.

Private Gilson's son was a member of today's guard of honour.

A lack of detail of their likely whereabouts means the remaining three servicemen are unlikely to ever be recovered.

A private funeral for Lance Corporal Gillespie will be held on Saturday.

Two RAAF Canberra Bomber crew and one SASR member still MIA from the Vietnam WAR
A moving story. Respect to his mates for hanging in there.

RIP Digger.
Well done them. I have passed this story to a Digger who lives in this neck of the woods and who served in Viet Nam!
One of my regimental mates is involved quite deeply in Op Aussies Home. He hosted a presentation at the Regt by the organisation a few months back re the recovery of LCPL Parker & PTE Gillson.

Inspiring stuff. Well done to Aussies Home and thanks to the Vietnamese government for their assistance.
Now that is a perfect example of Australian "mateness", well done them.
Good show.

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