By Melissa Sheil
NO one will be able to forget local Anzac spirit says Kalamunda RSL president Geof Irvin, as work to mount a symbolic piece of war history in the town gets underway.
A 17 metre UH-1H Iriquois helicopter will be mounted along the front park of the Kalamunda RSL Hall, parallel to Canning Road for the public to see as they drive by.
Thanks to a massive fundraising effort, the helicopter was shipped from Albury, NSW with the help of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds (an auxiliary member of the Kalamunda RSL) and now resides in Pickering Brook for restoration and while its mount is being prepared.
Mr Irvin hopes he can round up students from the local schools, including Kalamunda Secondary Education Support Centre, where he sponsors disabled children, to design murals for the 10-foot mount.
“I want it to be a community effort and get the kids to think about what Anzac means to them, what the spirit is represented by,” he said.
“I go to a lot of schools to do Anzac speeches and when I ask them what the spirit means, why should we remember, the responses I get are amazing and I think it’s important to reflect that in the murals.
“A beautiful battle-hardened helicopter on the side of the road will certainly help with the remembrance factor as well.”
The helicopter, named A2-279 ‘Huey’, was operational from 1973, seeing action in the Middle east, the Bougainville conflict and during several tours with the Peace Monitoring Group until retiring in 2006.
Previously painted bright red to distinguish it from the ex-RAAF UH-1H choppers flown by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, the Huey is now in camouflage colours, and will remain so during the restoration.
“It was very important for us, for me, to get this chopper over to us,” Mr Irvin said.
“I was with the Airforce in Vietnam, a crewman who winched men out of the field and I know that every digger, every soldier, every crewman knows the specific sound of the Iriquois chopper.
“They knew when they heard the whop whop whop of the Iriquois, it meant safety, it meant they were going to be ok.
“Every time there’s one used in a memorial and you can hear that sound, there’s not a dry eye from any of us.”
Mr Irvin expects the helicopter memorial will be ready by the time Remembrance Day rolls around this year.