He has been driven by the memory of platoon medic, Private Ian Reid exposed to enemy fire in the light of tracer bullets, as he cradled a seriously injured man in his arms.
After several formal attempts throughout the years to get Mr Reid recognised and countless reams of testimony, the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal finally made recommendation that Mr Reid receive the Medal for Gallantry for acts of gallantry in action in hazardous circumstances as the platoon medical assistant with 7 Platoon, Charlie Company, 7th Battalion during an ambush near the village of Phuoc Loi, South Vietnam on April 30, 1970.
Late last month Mr Reid received a letter from Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester confirming he would make the recommendation to the Governor-General that the medal be awarded. It is the last step in an excruciatingly long campaign and one that will culminate in the formal award in about five or six weeks time.
Like Private Ian Reid, Corporal John Abernethy was 20 years old and the acting section commander on the night of the ambush. When he heard the news, Mr Abernethy said he was very thankful it had finally happened.
“It’s about time. It’s insanity that it’s taken this long; it’s been a nightmare for Ian, the waiting has been horrendous.
“All I want to see is him presented and recognised, that’s more than enough reward for me,” Mr Abernethy said.
It was during intense fighting that Private Noel (Pop) Cooper was wounded and the call went out for the medic.
In the pitch black of the night Private Reid was unable to see the extent of Private Cooper’s serious injuries, but his fingertip search revealed a gaping hole in Private Cooper’s neck and he knew that he had to elevate the wound above the heart to try and save the man.
Mr Abernethy said he expected to see carnage as he looked back from his position.
“All I saw was Reid from the waist up exposed by tracer bullets, cradling Cooper in his arms like a baby and protecting him from the fire. I’m the only person looking back and seeing what the enemy saw.”
Private Cooper survived thanks to the actions of Private Reid.