FULL SUPPORT: Mildura RSL secretary John Searle is ready to support his beloved Magpies on ANZAC Day.
By PAUL MENSCH
MILDURA RSL secretary, John Searle, will be among a handful of veterans honoured through a motorcade at the MCG this ANZAC Day.
Each year the AFL, in conjunction with RSL Victoria, invites 10 veterans from different conflicts to take part in the annual Collingwood versus Essendon ANZAC Day pre-match event.
Veterans are nominated by their respective sub-branches, with the Mildura RSL putting John’s name forward eight months ago.
It has been 50 years since John returned from Vietnam, and the life-long Collingwood supporter said that he is both excited, and honoured, to be taking part in the ceremony this year.
John has been an integral part of ANZAC Day celebrations in Mildura for the past 30 years, thanks to his various roles within the Mildura sub-branch of the RSL.
Last year he decided to miss the Mildura march for the first time in many years and head to Melbourne, hoping to pick up a last-minute ticket to the ANZAC Day game.
Dressed in his full RSL attire with medals on display, a Collingwood scarf and armed with a cardboard sign asking for a ticket, John stood outside the MCG hoping for the best.
With only half-an-hour until the game began, a young woman representing the Collingwood Football Club approached and gave John a VIP ticket courtesy of the club.
“I was absolutely overwhelmed when I was handed the ticket,” John said. “They took me into the ground and showed me to a wonderful seat, I was very emotional at the time.
“The AFL do a magnificent job recognising the veterans of Australia on the day, and to stand in a stadium of nearly 100,000 people during a minutes silence where you can hear a pin drop is spine-tingling.
“To be invited to take part in the ceremony on the ground this year, and to do a lap of the ground in a motorcade, is truly humbling.
“Last year I got a little emotional during the ceremony, and with the generosity of the Collingwood Football Club.
“This year, I can only imagine the excitement and emotions I will be feeling out on the ground. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
So keep your eyes out for John on your TV from 2pm on ANZAC Day, taking part in a memorial for our most important of days, while also marking 50 years since he himself returned from serving our country.