Vietnam veteran reunited with service medals lost in 2011 floods

Emma Schafer 25 August 2021

10 years after losing them to the 2011 floods, Desmond Politch can finally wear his service medals again.

Desmond Politch

RAAF veterans Gary Hauck, Des Politch and George Lucas

Vietnam veteran Desmond ‘Des’ Politch vividly recalls throwing box after muddy box into a trailer on his front yard in the days following the devastating 2011 Toowoomba floods.

“I lived in a two-storey home near Lake Annand and everything that was in storage on the ground floor got absolutely covered with mud and water,” the 75-year-old recalls.

“I really couldn’t even tell what I was throwing out because the boxes were just filled with mud.”

Devastatingly, it dawned on him days after dumping the destroyed boxes that one held his treasured Australian Defence Force service medals, and all his Defence service records. 

Born and raised in the Garden City, Des enlisted in the RAAF in 1965 and was trained as a clerk at RAAF Base Wagga, NSW. He did a tour in Vietnam with the 1 Operational Support Unit in Vung Tau where he provided radio support from February 1970-71 before returning home to Toowoomba as a civilian labourer.

“I just figured that all the medals from that would be gone for good now,” Des says.

When Toowoomba RSL Sub Branch secretary Wendy Holt heard Des’s story – he had enquired about joining the Sub Branch – she was adamant this would not be the case. Wendy first found Des’s service details on the Nominal Roll of Vietnam Veterans, which enabled him to become a Sub Branch member. 

Then she sent away to Defence Honours and Awards for duplicate medals.

“Des wasn’t overly concerned about losing his service record, but he was concerned about the seven medals he wanted to pass on to his grandchildren,” Wendy says.

Last month, at a special Sub Branch morning teaDes was surprised with the duplicates.

“He was absolutely chuffed,” said Wendy, who admitted she also got a buzz from the morning

“And he’ll have them for Vietnam Veterans Day (August 18) which is nice.” 

Des says he was stunned.

“I thought I was just going over to the Sub Branch for a morning tea and to meet some other Vietnam veterans,” he laughed.

“When my partner died last year, I started realising I didn’t have much to leave for my daughter and grandchildren, so I am really relieved to have those medals again. It’s still a privilege to have them.”

As well as his appreciation for the Toowoomba RSL Sub Branch volunteers, Des was keen to impress on his fellow veterans the importance of the local Sub Branch.  

“I’ve met other veterans who are my age,” he says of the mateship he had found.

“I should have joined years ago.

 

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