Australian soldiers who were buried in cemeteries in Singapore and Malaysia after they died during the Vietnam War are set to be sent home, dubbed as the largest repatriation in the history of Australia.
Bodies of 27 servicemen and 8 Australian dependents will be brought back from the Terendak Military Cemetery in Malaysia, as well as an Australian who was buried at the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore, according to ABC News.
The repatriation was made after several families called for the return of their loved ones, one of them being Sara Ferguson, the wife of 3RAR Lieutenant David John Brian who died while patrolling the Thai-Malay border during the war in 1964.
“The place was barren and desolate — there wasn’t a shrub, the grass was just about dead, there were weeds everywhere and the gravestones were in disrepair,” Ferguson said. “The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was to actually walk away and leave him again.”
Through the experience, she began a repatriation campaign with her husband, Major General David Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson worked with Vietnam veterans’ organizations to convince the Abbott government to make the repatriation happen.
The remains were handed over to the Australian soldiers by the Malaysian soldiers at the Subang Military Air Base on Tuesday.
The Malaysian soldiers brought the coffins, which were draped with Australian flags, to the tarmac. Australian troops then brought them aboard two Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft.
The bodies are set to arrive on Thursday in Sydney. A private memorial service will be held for the fallen servicemen and dependents following a formal military repatriation ceremony involving several veterans who served with those killed, according to the Daily Mail.
Mrs. Ferguson will be attending the ceremony alongside her late husband’s son David, who never got to meet his father.