Veterans service

Private Stephen Cocker of Hobart, stands guard during a sweeping patrol made by members of 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) at Bien Hoa, Vietnam circa 1965. Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Photo ID DNE-65-0382-VN

Guest. Circular Head will mark Vietnam Veterans Day this Saturday (August 18) with a service at Anzac Park in Smithton.

The day commemorates all those who served and died in the Vietnam War.

Locally, the Circular Head RSL WWI Centenary Committee welcomes guest speaker Stephen James Cocker OAM of Allens Rivulet.

Growing up in Redpa as the middle child in a family of five, Mr Cocker was one of three brothers to enlist, alongside older brother Roger and younger sibling David.

The first to take up his post, Mr Cocker served in 1965 and ’66 with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. Then again in 1969 when he returned to serve with the 8th Battalion RAR.

“There was someone from the family there from ’65 to ’71,” says Mr Cocker, of the brothers’ service.

As life would have it, Mr Cocker features in the clip of the Redgum song ‘I Was Only 19’.

“Mike Willesee was working for the ABC, they were over there filming soldiers in Vietnam in the field,” he says.

“He was with our platoon a lot of the time. Well, this was our last operation, we were flying back to base from the last operation in Bien Hoa.

“He’s filming and I’m standing there with a machine gun on my shoulder. You have to be quick to see it, blink and you’ll miss it.”

Mr Cocker will share this anecdote and his war experiences during his visit to Circular Head.

In a career spanning more than two decades, Mr Cocker is a distinguished veteran.

Mr Cocker received his Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division for service to veterans in Tasmania in 2012.

His many roles include former president of the Tasmania Branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia and former president of the Returned Services League Hobart Sub-Branch.

He also instigated the raising of 47 historical banners of military units for schoolchildren to parade each Anzac Day, in 2004.

This Saturday, students from Smithton High School and Circular Head Christian School will speak at the service, while two members of the Burnie Highland Pipe Band will play.

The service starts at 10.30am followed by lunch at Circular Head RSL.

For confidential support, Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service can be reached 24 hours a day on 1800 011 046.


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