Raymond humbled by award for veterans support

Raymond James OAM

Raymond Francis James took on the presidency of the Trafalgar/Thorpdale RSL in 2007 believing it would a 12-month role.

Trafalgar/Thorpdale RSL president Raymond James was awarded an OAM in the Queen's Birthday Honours. photograph hayley mills

Trafalgar/Thorpdale RSL president Raymond James was awarded an OAM in the Queen's Birthday Honours. photograph hayley mills

Almost 12 years later he still leads the revitalised sub-branch and today the humble Vietnam veteran was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division in the Queen's Birthday honours' list for service to veterans and their families.

"I had mixed feelings [about the honour] because I feel like it's an award or a reward and I'm not very good at accepting those sorts of accolades or pats on the backs for doing what should be natural," Mr James said.

He said volunteers like him worked for the love of it.

"I accept it on behalf of everybody else. It's an honour, it really is."

Mr James said his wife of 48 years, Lorraine, also put a lot of work into the RSL and was "pretty proud" of his honour.

He returned to Trafalgar from milking cows in the Echuca-Moama area and transferred his membership to the local RSL.

However, the Trafalgar RSL was ailing and disbanded in 1992.

"We kept our charter but members went to the RSLs in Moe and Thorpdale. It was a shame," he said.

He became a co-instigator of a merger between the Trafalgar and Thorpdale sub-branches in 2007 and has been president ever since.

Under his watch the Trafalgar cenotaph was relocated from the busy Princes Freeway to the clubrooms in Kitchener Street, Trafalgar and the rooms were expanded to accommodate the honour board which was moved from the former Narracan Shire Council meeting room.

"There's no point having an honour board in a dingy room where no one can see it if we can't honour those names," Mr James said.

Moving the Trafalgar cenotaph, one of nine maintained by the sub-branch, presented its own challenges.

The original foundation stones could not be reused for the cenotaph but were saved and used as the foundation for the Jack Cooper Memorial Chair beside the cenotaph.

"We were told [the cenotaph] couldn't be shifted because it was too fragile," he said.

"That's probably the worst thing you can tell me."

Mr James' recollections of the sub-branch's achievements are littered with the names of his fellow volunteers and he said his greatest satisfaction comes from the pleasure other people get from their involvement.

"I promote this as a community RSL purely and simply because when the World War Two guys came back - Vietnam veterans it was a bit different - and everyone had this perception they were a bit different to everyone else because of their service," he said.

"But they were really no different to anyone else in the community because that's where they came from in the first place. And the community built this RSL."

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