Robin "Butch" Date
Robin Date, or “Butch” as he is affectionately known by his mates, laughs as he pats his belly and calls himself a “Tunnel Plug”.
Of course, he jokes about being called "Tunnel Plug" now, but in Vietnam, Butch was known as a "Tunnel Rat."
Butch served from 1970/1971. When he gets serious, his demeanour changes and he chokes up.
“I think about the blokes that never came back. One was there for three weeks...I’ve still got my life and he lost his.”
He says serving in Vietnam was life-changing.
“When I came back home, I had changed immensely but everything here was exactly the same. I was lucky to fit back in and I had a lot of support from family and friends, but it was so much harder for other Vietnam veterans who didn’t have that support.”
Butch, who is with Seaford RSL, has been volunteering for the Poppy Appeal for over 25 years and this year, like many others, he’s paired up with his good mate, another Vietnam veteran.
“We tell a few war stories, we talk a bit of rubbish, but it’s just good fun to be together.”
The RSL's wide-ranging assistance is made possible by the funds raised during the Poppy Appeal and Butch urges anyone who needs help to come forward.“You have to let us know if there’s a problem anywhere in your community with any veteran or their dependents.”
War widow Liz Brown is eternally grateful for the support she received from the RSL.
“I volunteer for the Poppy Appeal because of how it’s helped me and my family.”
100 percent of the funds raised during the Poppy Appeal goes directly to veterans and their families.
Liz’s husband passed away 15 years ago as a result of injuries sustained during his service in Vietnam.
“The RSL envelops you as a family. It’s that kind of situation where you know you have that family support,” she says.
Liz believes the Poppy Appeal is as important now as it was the day it started.
“The RSL is relevant to the current-serving generations, like my daughter. When she finishes her service, she knows there’s an RSL where she can seek support and assistance.”
With over 100 years of service history in her family, Liz generously contributes to the RSL’s mission by volunteering with the Noble Park Sub-Branch.
“I just want to give back and I like that it goes such a long way to support veterans and their families.”
Former soldier Chris McLeod enlisted in the Army in 1973 and served for 40 years.
“I was a mechanic mostly with the 1st Armoured Regiment. My operational service was the first deployment into East Timor, which was not peacekeeping, it was peace enforcement.”
He says it’s essential that the veteran community is supported.
“There’s a lot of guys who weren’t as lucky as me during their service. I served a long time and didn’t accumulate any injuries and did all the things I wanted to while I was in the army...”
Chris says the people of Melbourne are wonderful, from their friendliness to their generosity.
“You hear a lot of good stories. You get everything, from people who just want to have a good chat to people who want to buy a badge as they are driving by in a taxi. It’s all sorts.”
There was no way RSL Victoria’s new Chief Executive Officer Sue Cattermole was going to sit this one out.
“I’m proud to wear my poppy and represent the RSL.”
She armed herself with a box of poppies, a tin and an EFTPOS machine to give it her all for her first Poppy Appeal.
“It’s important to participate because this is at the heart of what we do, it’s what we are all about and it’s really important.”“It’s also my own way of saying thank you to those who have given so much and those who are still serving today.”
The Poppy Appeal raises vital funds to support the work of RSL Victoria in helping veterans and their families but, as Sue says, it is also critical in raising awareness of the history that has led us here today.
“We must never forget the sacrifices of the past, nor the ongoing service of veterans and families.”
Steve Auhl’s day job has opened his eyes to the veteran community. While he may not put on a uniform, he knows many that do.
“I work on defence projects, army projects, I work with the defence people as well and my family are veterans, so I like to support it because of that.”
This is just Steve’s second time volunteering for the Poppy Appeal, but he found it so rewarding the first time, he came back for more.
“Everybody is happy when they come up to you to buy a poppy or donate. It’s a really good feeling you get from people.”
He says volunteering and donating are both valuable contributions.
“Any support we can give to the veterans is a great thing. Sometimes, they get left behind a little bit and every bit helps.”
For over 50 years Gary Willits from the Noble Park RSL has been hitting the streets for the Poppy Appeal.
“The money goes towards all the chaps that came back, been injured, mentally injured and goes to looking after and supporting all of those who are struggling and their families.”
It’s a personal passion for Gary, who served in Vietnam between 1968 and 1969.
“I drove a tank, I got blown up in the tank and I’m very lucky to be alive. So, I’m putting back into the community.”
Every time Florence Jennings volunteers for the Poppy Appeal, she remembers her wonderful childhood in Malaysia.
“It takes me back to my childhood when my dad went to the Remembrance Service and he would wear a poppy. I’d ask him why and he’d tell me it’s for the soldiers.”
The 76-year-old from Ivanhoe RSL has been a regular volunteer since 2003.
“I’m going to be volunteering until I can’t walk any more!”
Proudly wearing his Army uniform as he stands on a bustling city street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, is Matt Brodie.
“I just want to support the RSL, who in turn supports veterans and their families.”
Matt has served in the ADF for 33 years.
“I like the teamwork, representing my country and the pride and history of the Army.”
He says it’s critical people do their part for the veteran community and to help ensure longevity of the RSL.
“The RSL has been around for a long time and it needs to be around for a long time in the future. It’s very important to veterans.”