From serving his country in the jungles of Indonesia to raising four children with his wife of 74 years, John O’Brien has lived a life to be proud of.
The 96 year old World War II veteran was among the patients, staff and community members to observe an ANZAC Day ceremony at Auburn Hospital today, wheeled down in his hospital bed for the special occasion.
It was the first memorial service he has been able to attend in several years after a lifetime tradition of taking part in the service at Chester Hill Bowling Club.
John told the story of one brush with death on his way back from Dutch New Guinea (as it was previously known) to Darwin for leave, when the plane he was flying in lost one of its engines over the ocean.
He was then spared from being deployed to Borneo when WWII ended two days before he was due to fly out.
“You don’t expect to live this long, but I’ll take it,” the veteran said.
John was born in Auburn, and after enjoying a lifetime of good health has battled several medical conditions over the past two years. He was discharged from hospital today to be reunited with his wife in their Chester Hill nursing home.
“I love this hospital. The care is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. He always sees the same wonderful doctor and the nurses are tremendous, they’re just magnificent with him,” his daughter Janette O’Brien said.
A service was also held at Westmead Hospital this morning for people to pay their respects and reflect on the meaning of the ANZAC spirit.
Don Anderson from the Parramatta RSL sub-branch reflected that as our nation faces another great battle, we always set aside time to reflect on the ANZAC legacy.
“As our forces are helping the world fight the COVID-19 virus, we have to stand together and pay tribute to those we have lost,” Don said.
“From the devastation, we will grow. It reminds us that our duty to our veterans never ceases.”
Westmead Hospital security operations manager Andrew Moore was among the staff who paid tribute at the service.
Reflecting on his nine-month deployment to Iraq with the Australian Reservists, Andrew said that to him, ANZAC Day means mateship.
“It’s about teamwork and looking after your mates. It’s about never leaving anyone behind.
“In such a horrible circumstance you can find good moments, moments of camaraderie,” Andrew said.
WSLHD will be holding ANZAC services at Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals on Monday 26 April.
Find the details of those services, as well as the ones taking place across western Sydney this weekend, here.