By Mikayla van Loon
It was a special Vietnam Veterans Day for one former RSL president and veteran, Roger Boness.
The Mount Evelyn RSL community announced they would be honouring Mr Boness with a plaque for his dedication and service to the RSL and the local community, especially as president from 2011 to 2021.
Mr Boness was instrumental in obtaining the Vietnam era M2A2 Howitzer cannon which is now placed in the memorial gardens and will soon be called the ‘Boness Gun’.
“When they announced it, I was completely taken off guard and it is the sort of recognition that you don’t get everyday, it only comes around once in a lifetime,” Mr Boness said.
“And so I said to them, ‘I don’t know what to say’ and I suppose because of that, it says it all, I can’t find the appropriate words but when I started thinking about it, I’m really honoured and humbled at the same time to receive that sort of recognition.”
As a forward observer in the Vietnam War, Mr Boness was well acquainted with the different types of artillery and guns used to fight the battles, this Howitzer cannon being one of them.
“So my job was to ring the guns up and tell them where to shoot them. So I have an affinity with the gun. I served with 106 Field Battery and we had six guns in the battery and I always had those when I was out in the infantry in the jungle,” he said.
“It was my job to bring in supporting artillery when they got into a contact. So it was a real surprise yesterday [Wednesday 18 August] when they’d named the gun after myself.”
It took six years for the gun to be acquired from the American government, decommissioned, welded and put into place in Mount Evelyn.
Current Mount Evelyn RSL president Matthew Crymble said Mr Boness played such a significant part in making the war memorial and gardens what they are today.
“We are very proud of our memorial garden. With the support of our RSL, Roger and the committee were instrumental in making the memorial garden what it is today. It is very much a centerpiece of our Mount Evelyn community,” he said.
Mr Crymble said this plaque represents the dedication Mr Boness showed in building the Mount Evelyn RSL, from increasing memberships to establishing relationships with other community groups.
But on a personal level, Mr Crymble said it was a symbol of Mr Boness’ continuing support, commitment and advice not only to the RSL members but to himself as well during his transition to president.
“He is very loyal to his friends and a hard working community minded leader. I am lucky to say Roger is a mate of mine.”
Mr Boness was disappointed that commemorations could not go ahead as normal for the second year in a row.
“It is very important to us, it did change our lives. All conflicts change your lives. It is a very important day to us, Vietnam Veterans Day,” he said.
“When we came back from Vietnam, Vietnam was a public war. It was on the TV every night, there were moratoriums in the streets of Melbourne, people complaining about our presence in the war and when we came back from Vietnam, we weren’t welcomed by the public apart from our own private families and even the RSL turned their back on us.
“So what we did was, we started the Vietnam Veterans Association and in that regard, we had to find a day to commemorate those veterans that had served and some of them didn’t come home.”