IT was an emotional reunion when Oberon RSL Sub Branch president Bill Wilcox was reunited recently with his mate, Frank Hunt, with whom he served in Vietnam.
Alasdair McDonald from the Bega District News caught up with the mates at their reunion:
As two veterans sat discussing the war that brought them together on the battlefield, it seemed as if they had known each other forever.
Bega’s Frank Hunt was reunited recently with Bill Wilcox, of Oberon, one of the two men who saved his life after he was severely wounded by a landmine in the dense jungle of the Long Hai mountains in Vietnam almost 48 years ago.
Mr Wilcox was an engineer at the time and along with Johnny Needs, who was killed in action just minutes later, risked his life to save Mr Hunt, never thinking he would see him again.
“It’s been very emotional for me and I shed a few tears last night, but it’s been so wonderful to say thanks to the man who saved my life - it was him and Needsy,” Mr Hunt said.
Reunited, they pieced together what happened that fateful day, while maintaining a keen sense of humour.
“Four of us were choppered in to get them out, but we couldn’t land because of the undergrowth and the worry about triggering more mines, so they dropped us down by winch,” Mr Wilcox said.
“Frankie was the first one we came to after Needsy led us through the area that was cleared.”
During the meeting, Mr Wilcox was able to put to rest a fear Mr Hunt had carried with him all these years – that he let down his mates.
Despite his horrific injuries, Mr Hunt was still operating his radio.
“I had holes everywhere, I was bleeding like a stuck pig,” Mr Hunt said.
“The first minute you don’t feel the pain. You’re acting on adrenaline because you have a job to do.
“I focused on my task, which was to get my mates out. I kept doing my job and I’m proud of that.”
While clearing jungle, Mr Wilcox was also struck in the leg, hand and stomach by shrapnel from a mine and evacuated by helicopter.
By the time of his discharge from hospital, Mr Wilcox was told Mr Hunt had returned home to Australia.
It was the day man landed on the moon, and Mr Wilcox remembers American soldiers being distracted by the radio broadcast.
Mr Hunt said “Needsy” had a bad vibe about the mission and he didn’t make it back.