Private John Bobongie, who has been recognised for his service in Vietnam.
Private John Bobongie, who has been recognised for his service in Vietnam. Contributed

Vietnam veteran finally honoured 48 years later

A SOUTH Sea Islander soldier has been recognised for his service at the Mackay Vietnam War Memorial, 48 years after he left the army.

John "Andy" Bobongie served for six years and was deployed overseas twice between 1964 and 1970.

He died in a single vehicle accident in September 1970, after returning to Mackay in January of the same year.

Member for Mirani Jim Pearce, himself a Vietnam veteran, and member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert attended a ceremony at the memorial at 2pm Sunday, where members of Mr Bobongie's family unveiled a plaque, which had been draped with the Australian and South Sea Islander flags.

 

Memorial plaque to Vietnam veteran John
Memorial plaque to Vietnam veteran John "Andy" Bobongie in the Civic Precinct, Mackay. Jonathan Reichard

Mr Bobongie's younger brother by two years, Earl Bobongie, said the day had been a long time coming.

"I never thought it was going to happen," Earl said. "He was never recognised. To me, opening this plaque means a real lot. He was only 28 when he passed away from an accident. Nothing's ever been said about this, until just now, lately it all came to light."

 

Maude and Earl Bobongie, widow and brother of John Bobongie.
Maude and Earl Bobongie, widow and brother of John Bobongie. Jonathan Reichard

Maude Corowa, John's widow, said it was appropriate timing.

"This year it is 150 years since the South Sea Islander people were brought here to Mackay for the sugar fields," she said. "It's very timely, I didn't plan it to be like this, it just happened.

"I was thinking about this, in the 1840s, they took the Islanders from the islands to work in the sugar fields.

"We weren't treated well, yet this man stood up to serve this country. Then when he came home, he wasn't recognised, just the same as when we were brought over to work in the canefields."

George Newton of the Mackay Veterans Support Group said the service was not about the past or the failure of the veteran community in 1970, it is about the recognition of a Mackay serviceman that served his country with pride and loyalty for six year.



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