The remains of a fallen soldier have begun the journey home from Vietnam to Australia after more than 36 years.
Lance Corporal John Gillespie, an army medic, died on April 17, 1971 aged 24, when a RAAF Iroquois helicopter crashed and burst into flames during a medical evacuation in the Long Hai Hills of Phuoc Tuy province, in southern Vietnam.
It was believed at the time that all human remains had been consumed in the blaze.
But Jim Bourke, founder of the group Operations Aussies Home, said an Australian government-conducted excavation of a helicopter crash site discovered remains identified as those of Lance Corporal Gillespie.
His widow, Carmel Hendrie, and daughter, Fiona Pike were at Hanoi International Airport today to watch soldiers of the First Combat Services Support Battalion carry his casket to a waiting RAAF C130 Hercules aircraft, which will return the remains to Melbourne.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs Alan Griffin, Repatriation Commissioner Brigadier William Rolfe (retired), Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Bill Tweddell, Mr Bourke and Operation Aussies Home colleague Peter Aylett also attended.
Mr Griffin thanked the Vietnamese government and the Operation Aussies Home team for their roles in the repatriation of Lance Corporal Gillespie's remains.
"Soon, Lance Corporal Gillespie will be laid to rest at home, where his family can say the goodbyes that have been denied them for so long," he said in a statement.
Lance Corporal Gillespie's remains will be returned to Melbourne for a formal ceremony on Wednesday.
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