MARINKO 'TICH' TOMAS MEMORIAL REDEDICATION
On Friday 8th July, the refurbished memorial and new plaque in honour of LCPL Marinko 'Tich' Tomas were unveiled and rededicated on the 50th anniversary of him being Killed-In-Action. The original statue, which was first dedicated in 1988 as a bicentennial project, was donated by the Republic of Vietnam Veterans Association.
Tich deployed to Vietnam with 9 Platoon, C Company, 5 RAR and was the first West Australian National Serviceman to be KIA in Vietnam.
The ceremony was held at Tich's home town of Nannup, WA, in the Marinko Tomas Bicentennial Park. A gathering of over 200 people were present, including a number of the Tomas family, RSL members and officials, 5 RAR and former Vietnamese veterans. About 55 veterans and family members of 5 RAR attended including 20 of his C Company mates. Van Khoat Nguyen, the original sculptor, who came to Australia as a boat refugee was also present. In recent years the memorial had fallen into disrepair and last year the Nannup RSL Sub-Branch supported by the 5 RAR Association began fundraising and work to reseal and renovate it. A new plaque was cast and installed last month. About $3,000 was donated for the work.
Master of Ceremonies, Ross Croft, a stalwart of the Nannup RSL opened the proceedings and welcomed the attendees.
Our National President, Roger Wainwright in his address gave an overview of the operational circumstances of Operation Sydney in which Nui Nghe to the north-west of Nui Dat was cleared, during which Tich lost his life in the late afternoon of 8 July. He also mentioned that two simultaneous remembrance occasions were occurring on the day. A poppy was placed against Tich's name on the Roll of Honour at the AWM in Canberra where he is remembered alongside his fellow fallen tigers. He was also remembered at his battalion home at Binh Ba Lines Darwin where the 5 RAR flag was lowered to half mast for the day and a poppy placed against his plaque on the new Memorial Wall. Photos from the battalion memorial were passed to Tich's family.
Roger also mentioned "It is not possible to commemorate each individual loss and we treat everyone of our lost comrades with equal respect. The opportunity to pay tribute to Marinko 'Tich' Tomas came about due to his statue in his home town of Nannup requiring some maintenance and a new plaque."
Roger closed with, "Marinko 'Tich' Tomas, after 50 years and beyond, we will never forget you."
Robert 'Dogs' Kearney OAM, then spoke of his recollections of serving with Tich, Bob was his section commander and next to him when Tich fell late on 8th July 1966.
Years later Bob discovered that at the same time of Tich's passing, his dog Shadow, began to howl thousands of kilometres away at his family's Nannup farm. "Shadow howled from about 9pm until just after midnight," said Bob Kearney. "He sat up on the hill where the bulls roar and his awful, sad howling could be heard all over the farm."
'Dogs' said he was told the story years later when he visited the family - who told him that they couldn't get Shadow to come back to the house. The following morning they learned of Tich's death when police officers visited the farm.
"Shadow went off his food and kept away from us all. His behaviour became erratic and within two weeks he disappeared," the family told Bob. "We never saw him again; neither did anyone from around the neighbouring farms or towns." (see www.5rar.asn.au/poems/shadow.htm)
John Nguyen, Vice President of the Republic of Vietnam Veterans Association, expressed their gratitude to Australia for protecting their freedom.
The new plaque which was covered by the national flag was then unveiled by Graham Edwards AM, former MLA and Immediate Past President West Australian RSL, and Bob Kearney.
Val Russell who played a lead role in the refurbishment recited a poem to conclude the ceremony, after which refreshments were served in the Recreation Centre.
The national flag and the 5 RAR Association sash which had adorned the memorial were presented to the members of Tich's family.