THE community has paid a "fitting tribute" to Australia's first Victoria Cross recipient, former Manning Valley doctor Neville Reginald Howse VC and the people who left this region to go to war.
Last Thursday, July 24 about 200 people attended the dedication of the Neville Howse VC Rest Area at Ellenborough Falls and heard special guest speakers including federal MP Dr David Gillespie, Greater Taree City mayor Paul Hogan and Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peter Besseling and Lieutenant Commander Dr Charles Howse Royal Australian Navy Reserve (grandson of Neville Howse VC).
The event marked the first works for the War Veterans' Remembrance Drive from Wingham to Wauchope which will eventually see 100 kilometres of road between the Wingham Memorial Town Hall and the Wauchope Memorial Clock Tower recognised as part of the drive.
One of the aims of the drive is to encourage travellers off the main highway and into the hinterland with the Neville Howse VC Rest Area serving as a major feature.
"If all the people who visit the Ellenborough Falls also drop into the memorial that would be a wonderful thing," said WO1 Peter Simeon.
On leave from the Australian Army to attend the dedication, WO1 Peter Simeon and his family donated the memorial stone for the site from their Elands property.
"This is very significant for the local community," he said.
The guests spoke much of the bravery of Neville Howse VC and in a letter from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Dr Gillespie conveyed the message that 'to the wounded Neville Howse was gentleness himself'.
A brave man remembered, State member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said he was much more than just a war hero.
He commented that if Neville had been an American there would be 10 movies made about him.
But he was an Australian.
"A great Australian," said Stephen.
Not only was Neville Howse VC the first Australian awarded the Victoria Cross but he also introduced triage onto the battlefield, ensuring thousands of lives have since been saved.
Neville's grandson, Lieutenant Commander Dr Charles Howse eloquently pointed out that it was his determination after that said more about the man than one particular act of bravery.
The dedication plaque was unveiled by mayors Paul Hogan and Peter Besseling.
"For all those who remember yesterday and have faith in tomorrow," Rev Darrell McKeough said in his dedication.
Wreaths were then placed by president of the War Veterans' Remembrance Drive Association Darcy Elbourne and children from local schools, serving to remind those gathered that men like Neville Howse are still inspiring the youth of today.
Seeing the children lay the wreaths touched the hearts of many including Lieutenant Colonel Eric Richardson OAM (Ret'd) who gave the closing remarks.
"It is an inspiration to see the young people of the future here today," he said.
"Let us not forget there are still young Australians in uniform."
Also speaking on the day were John Clark OAM, Darcy Elbourne, Mrs Mary Nelson and John Ramsland OAM, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Newcastle.
A catafalque party stood guard over the dedication plaque for the duration of the ceremony.