July 19, 2013
When Victoria Cross winner Keith Payne visits Kingaroy next month there’s going to be a special guest eager to meet him.
Mr Payne is coming to town for the annual Vietnam Veterans Day commemoration which will be held on Sunday, August 18, at the catafalque in Memorial Park.
But on the evening before, a group of invited guests will dine with him, including Mrs Melba Galton, from Kingaroy.
Melba, 87, recalls the day back in 1969 when she learned that then Warrant Officer Class 2 had been awarded the Commonwealth’s highest award for valour.
She was living just five doors down from his wife, Flo, in Stafford, a suburb dotted with army homes.
Her husband, Gordon, a Warrant Officer, was also away with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) in Vietnam at the time.
His three tours of Vietnam were only the latest chapter in Gordon’s military career which also spanned active service in World War II, the Japanese Occupation, and Korea.
Gordon Selwyn Munt joined the Naval Reserve when he was just 18 and World War II was raging. After serving on minesweepers in the Pacific theatre, he transferred to the regular Navy.
Melba says he was on the “third boat in” to Japan after the surrender.
After the war he returned to Queensland and worked for two years at Ipswich Railway Station but he obviously missed the miltary life because he then signed up with the Army.
The couple were married in 1949. And so began a life for Melba and the four children of moving from town to town – and long periods alone when Gordon was deployed overseas.
He was sent to Japan and then onto Korea with 3RAR.
Then it was off to Papua New Guinea with the PIR (Pacific Islands Regiment). This time the family followed, living in Port Moresby while he served at Wanimo in north-west PNG and Manus Island (well-known these days because of Australia’s refugee detention centre).
Back from PNG, Gordon was sent to Sydney, then Singleton where was training National Servicemen (Nashos); then to Puckapunyal in Victoria.
He was then transferred to the AATTV in February 1965 and it was off to Manila and then Saigon.
By 1967 his family was living at Canungra. They then shifted to Stafford and Aspley where in May 1970 they received a knock on the door to say Gordon had been injured. He was wounded in the elbow in Quang Nam province but fortunately it was not bad enough for him to be repatriated.
All up, Gordon did three tours of Vietnam … from 22/4/66 to 25/3/67; 24/3/69 to 4/3/70; and 1/4/70 to 8/10/70.
After Vietnam it was back to Canungra where he continued in his training role until he was discharged from the Army in 1978.
He passed away in February 1982.
Melba and Gwen, her daughter, said they were looking forward to catching up with Keith Payne at the dinner.
Keith also served in Korea and with the PIR before being sent to Vietnam.