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The living VC recipients on 3AW

Posted by: 3AW Radio | 21 February, 2011 - 12:04 PM
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PLAYING NOW: Neil Mitchell reflects on what he says was one of the highlights of his media career; speaking to the three living VC recipients.

JUSTIN SMITH: Keith Payne takes his time. It seems to be a mixture of age and his rank-in-life.

He picks up his jacket – weighed down with medals – and starts to put it on. The huge frame of Ben Roberts-Smith moves behind him to help. Lifting it over his shoulder and sliding his finger under the collar to make it straight. Neil Mitchell had just finished the interview with the three Victoria Cross heroes, and it was beautiful and revealing sight. There was real care in his movements.

Mark Donaldson smiles through his freckles. He chats without effort, looks you in the eye and likes a laugh.

The impressive men certainly left an impression on us – before, after and during the interview.

On air, there were plenty of moments on air that made it one of the best things we’ve ever done.

Mark Donaldson was embarrassed when Neil reminded him of a run-in with some “yobos” on the streets of London. Mark was strolling with a couple of British recipients of bravery awards (the George’s Cross), when some hapless drinkers and a dog decided to test out his hand-to-hand training. They lost.

Ben Roberts-Smith talked about his willingness to go back to fight in Afghanistan. It was his condition on receiving the VC, that he’d be allowed to rejoin his comrades.

And Keith Payne tried to sum up the men and their awards. “You’re just the right bloke in the wrong place,” he said. But the story he won’t tell you of saving 40 men, under fire and wounded, is beyond inspiring.

Off air, it was great to see the men gathered at the Australian War Memorial. They enjoyed being together, and didn’t need to use a lot of words to understand each other.

I talked with Mark about how wonderful it is that we’re now talking about real heroes, and getting children interested in our history.

After a couple of minutes with him I could see his passion for the Victoria Cross. He wears it the way it should be.

Mark Donaldson will be a real community leader as the years go on.

All three are treasured.

It will be hard to top this one. 

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PLAY AUDIO: Neil's fascinating hour-long interview with Ben-Roberts Smith, Mark Donaldson, and Keith Payne

Blog comments Your Say

  • Schools. Put on morning address have students study it. Learn just not from there comments; but they way they speak. Pride, mates country. Great Blokes

    Bob Saturday 26 February, 2011 - 6:40 AM
  • Look at the smug look on Browne's face as he stands with Julia 2 days ago. He knows he now controls the Labor vacuum. all he wanted was an egotistical spineless cur to manipulate and he got one. Well done Labor...it will be many decades before you can stand tall again!

    Ned.R. Friday 25 February, 2011 - 10:36 AM
  • Regardless of ones politics, these three fine men are the epitome of bravery and selflessness. This interview was outstanding and to hear their stories, their willingness to fight for their country and their mates was a privilege and honour. Thankyou Keith, Mark and Ben, for your service and that of your comrades. Special thanks to the families of those who serve for their sacrifices too.

    Kass Hall Monday 21 February, 2011 - 5:44 PM
  • Despite the politics of their deployment at times, the very security of the Australian way of life rests on their shoulders. Despite the fake grins and bravado, the finnancial world would mean nothing without those that sacrafice. They are sometimes used and discarded but oddly enough their ranks are always full. A huge debt of thank is owed to all those that have served. Especially these exceptional few.

    Anon Monday 21 February, 2011 - 5:09 PM
  • I was mesmerised by your interview. The explanation about a sense of family "Would you have done it for your son?" Just struck a chord and you knew that this was a humble man perhaps slightly bemused that this should have happened to him for doing his job!Amazing!
    Thank you for bringing us this insight into Ordinary men doing Extraordinary things so that we can sleep safe at night. Thank you to all our troops here and abroad.

    Monica Fuller Monday 21 February, 2011 - 4:36 PM
  • Neil,your interview with our three Victoria Cross winner's was outstanding.They are true hero's and they bring honor to themselves and their country. It would be great for the morale of our troops if you could broadcast from their base in Afghanistan one day in the in the near future.

    Gary Bevern Monday 21 February, 2011 - 1:49 PM

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