Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester this week presented the insignia for the Unit Citation for Gallantry to two local veterans at a ceremony at the Briagolong RSL.
Mr Chester presented the award to veterans Gerald King and George Triantafyllou and recognised their brave service to Australia. A third veteran, John Bryant, also received the award, but was unable to attend the ceremony. All three enlisted in 1967.
“These three men served their country during the Battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, which were among the largest and most protracted battles fought by Australians in the Vietnam War,” Mr Chester said.
“Through 26 days of battle, a force comprising up to 3,000 Australians prevailed against a well prepared and numerically superior enemy.
“On behalf of all Australians, I am proud to recognise the extraordinary bravery displayed by Mr King, Mr Bryant and Mr Triantafyllou with the Unit Citation for Gallantry and thank them for their service to our nation.”
Members of the 1st Australia Task Force (Forward) and associated units deployed to Area of Operations SURFERS during the battles was recognised by the Unit Citation for Gallantry earlier this year.
After completing recruit training at Puckapunyal, Mr Triantafyllou served as a driver in 85 Transport Platoon. Mr Bryant joined the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment as a rifleman. Mr King trained at Kapooka and also served as a rifleman, posted to 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. All were in their early twenties in May 1968 when the battles began.
President of the Briagolong RSL Mark Wagstaff said the sub branch was delighted to host such an occasion.
“The Briagolong RSL Log Cabin has seen a wealth of history come through its doors in the almost 70 years it has stood, and being able to recognise veterans from the Vietnam War, and these battles in particular, is something our members will be proud of,” Mr Wagstaff said.
As members of cited units during the Battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, Mr King, Mr Bryant and Mr Triantafyllou are entitled to wear the Unit Citation for Gallantry insignia with Federation Star along with their service medals. Members serving with those units today are entitled to wear the insignia without the Federation Star while they are posted to the unit.
In 2018, the Government accepted the recommendations from the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal Inquiry into Unit Recognition for Service at the Battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral.
Veterans who served at the battles are encouraged to apply directly to the Department of Defence through the Defence Medals Online Application form, available at www.defence.gov.au/medals.