‘You are all our family’ — How Bruce Rock became a home away from home for Australia’s veterans

Email Shannon Verhagen

Twenty years ago, a group of Bruce Rock veterans had a plan.

They hoped to have a stained glass window made in the local church, in honour of Vietnam veterans.

A momentous occasion, the unveiling of the “Peace” window back in 2001, brought veterans from across the State to the Wheatbelt farming community.

Their sense of camaraderie and mateship not lost in the years since they served, they caught up on decades passed and shared their stories.

By the end of it one thing became clear — they should do it again.

Vietnam veteran and Back to the Bush reunion organiser Colin Turner with the ‘Peace’ window installed at the church 20 years ago.
Camera IconVietnam veteran and Back to the Bush reunion organiser Colin Turner with the ‘Peace’ window installed at the church 20 years ago. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

Twenty years later, the Back to the Bush Veterans Reunion has grown to a week-long affair bringing hundreds of people from around the country together every year to honour those who bravely served.

It was an emotional day for the community on Saturday, with Bruce Rock Shire president Stephen Strange starting his speech at Memorial Park by welcoming everyone attending as “part of the Bruce Rock family”.

Paul and Heather Hutton, Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange, Colin Turner and Judy Gould officially open the town's newest memorial dedication.
Camera IconPaul and Heather Hutton, Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange, Colin Turner and Judy Gould officially open the town's newest memorial dedication.
Paul and Heather Hutton, Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange, Colin Turner and Judy Gould officially open the town's newest memorial dedication.
Camera IconPaul and Heather Hutton, Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange, Colin Turner and Judy Gould officially open the town's newest memorial dedication.

He held back tears as he thanked the locals behind the event Paul and Heather Hutton, Colin Turner and his late wife Sue, and Judy Gould and her late husband Merv.

“The hugs, the joy and many tears,” Mr Strange said. “What a wonderful thing this group have done for the veterans.

“I don’t have the words to articulate what this has done for so many people.

“(Over the years) quite a few of you have pulled me aside and spoke in detail about what this weekend has done for them, their partner and their families and how Bruce Rock is a big part of their family.

“That’s how this park came about, because as time goes on, there’ll be less veterans travelling through, but their families ... they’ll come through here and remember the veterans that served — their family that served — and helped make not only Bruce Rock, but Australia what it is today.”