Neville Cullen’s family had a long history of military service, so it was only natural that the then 17½-year-old would sign up for the Vietnam War in 1964.
“My grandfather was a World War I veteran – he was mentioned in despatches and was promoted in the field (in Egypt) from Sergeant to Lieutenant,” Neville says.
“Two days later he was wounded with shrapnel that stayed in him until he died.”
The Redcliffe RSL president’s father and mother both served in World War II, his father in the Armoured Crops and his mother in the Women’s Air Force.
While traditional Remembrance Day services are cancelled due to COVID-19, Neville says it is still a day of reflection for service men and women.
“To me it’s just about remembering their service and what they have done, along with my own service, and to remember those that did not return home and gave their lives so we could live in peace,” he says.
“We do encourage people to either turn out (in their driveways) like they did on Anzac Day, or if they are passing by the memorial to place a poppy.”
Meanwhile, Moreton Bay’s Own 101.5FM community radio station is also broadcasting a Remembrance Day Service from 9am hosted by Christine O’Brien with themed music, historical pieces from Morayfield-Caboolture RSL Sub-Branch president Bruce Miller OAM, poems as well as a main service starting at 10.45am, with all the formalities.
Promise to grandmother
Having served in a cadet corps while at school, Neville says he enjoyed the discipline and sought permission from his grandmother, with whom he was living, to sign up for Vietnam.
“My grandmother made me promise that I would not go into the infantry or the artillery and said the best to apply for would be the Medical Corps.
“The Army asked you to put down three choices (of where to serve) and I put down medical, medical and medical.”
Neville says few men sought to join the Medical Corp – just three from his intake applied – so it was little surprise when he received his assignment.
He served two tours of Vietnam, with two years with the 16 Commonwealth Field Ambulance in Malaya in between.
“I was a Corporal when I went to Malaya and I came back a Sergeant, then went over to Vietnam again as a dust-off medic.
“That involved flying out in a helicopter to pick up wounded from the battlefront and bringing them back for medical treatment.”
Neville says flying over the battlefront was challenging, “especially when you were getting shot at by the enemy below”.
Career in nursing
His time with the Medical Corps ignited a passion for nursing and Neville went on to become a registered nurse working mainly in operating theatres.
“I rose through the ranks in the admin side and became the Deputy Director of Nursing at Mount Druitt Hospital, which was still on the drawing board at that stage.”
Moving to Queensland, Neville became the Director of Nursing at St Andrews Hospital at Ipswich and later the Principal Policy Officer for Queensland Health before his retirement.
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