RAAF Base Wagga welcomed back an old friend who was evacuated from his house during the 2019-20 bushfires that ravaged the east coast of Australia.
CAPTION: Frank Winnell and Commanding Officer No. 31 Squadron Wing Commander Nick Pausina with the gifted Darcy Doyle print at RAAF Base Wagga. Story by Wing Commander Nick Pausina.
Frank Winnell, a Batlow resident, generously gifted a Darcy Doyle print to the base as gratitude for the care provided to him and his dog, Drum, during the difficult time.
Mr Winnell said he and his reliable four-legged friend were driven to the Wagga Wagga Emergency Handling Centre, where they were allocated a room at RAAF Base Wagga by the NSW Government emergency accommodation team.
“Over the next two weeks we stayed on base, I was fortunate enough to meet both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Air Commander Australia, Air Vice-Marshal Vincent Iervasi,” Mr Winnell said.
“The contractors and staff on base were heroes in my eyes.
“I wanted to come back and present the base with a beautiful print that evokes the spirit of the Australian bush and its people, to thank them for everything they did for Drum and I.
“It has emotional significance to me, as it was handed down from my father.”
Ensuring this connection will never be forgotten, the print has been mounted on a wall of the Beaufighter Mess with a small plaque acknowledging its heritage.
Mr Winnell returned to his home in Batlow, which had been spared the devastation of the rest of the township because of the efforts of the NSW Rural Fire Service and town residents.
Since the end of the bushfires, RAAF Base Wagga has kept in contact with a number of evacuees that were accommodated on base, including George and Judith Szymoniczek, who welcomed a small number of base personnel to their home in Rosewood and sent thank you cards.
Senior Australian Defence Force Officer RAAF Base Wagga Group Captain Chris Ellison said it was incredibly touching and humbling to have those who stayed during their time of need, express their gratitude to personnel.
“We simply provided a place to stay, their lives were in turmoil, it really was the least we could do,” he said.