It’s not every day you meet a centenarian, so meeting two on the same day was a highlight of Group Captain Iain Carty’s 31-year Air Force career. 

Group Captain Carty travelled from RAAF Base Amberley, in Ipswich, where he is the senior ADF officer, to visit the Gold Coast-based Air Force veterans who had recently celebrated their 100th birthdays.

He presented them with framed Air Force centenary mementos in recognition of their service and to commemorate Air Force’s centenary year.

Former Leading Aircraftman William (Bill) Heatherill’s memories of working alongside the American Air Force in the Pacific during World War II are still firmly etched in his mind.

Born in Toora, Victoria, on April 19, 1921, Mr Heatherill enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 20.

Serving in Papua, New Guinea, the Philippines and Borneo, Mr Heatherill helped build airstrips for the American Air Force as part of No. 3 Airfield Construction Squadron, discharging in January 1946.

Today, Mr Heatherill lives at Currumbin Waters with his daughter, Elaine Heatherill, and credits his long life to healthy eating and avoiding drinking and smoking.

Senior ADF Officer RAAF Base Amberley Group Captain Iain Carty presents Air Force veteran Frank Coxon with an Air Force 2021 commemorative memento in celebration of his 100th birthday. Photo: Corporal Jesse Kane

In the nearby suburb of Tallebudgera, Frank Coxon’s Army and Air Force service was commended by Group Captain Carty when he presented Mr Coxon with his Air Force centenary commemorative memento.

Born in Townsville, Mr Coxon turned 100 on May 17.

Like Mr Heatherill, Mr Coxon enlisted at the age of 20; however, he initially joined the Australian Army, where he served for almost three years before joining Air Force.

He discharged as a leading aircraftman in July, 1945.

Mr Coxon credited his success as a businessman later in life to the management, people and organisation skills he developed through his ADF service.

Group Captain Carty said it was an honour and privilege to present the men with the mementos on behalf of the Chief of Air Force and Warrant Officer of the Air Force.

“These Air Force veterans have given freely of themselves during wartime service and lived 100 years on this planet,” Group Captain Carty said.

“On every occasion I get to meet these wonderful veterans, I am fortunate to relive some of our Air Force history with them.

“I am continually amazed by their wartime experiences and the cherished memories they have of their service.

“Our centenarians are remarkable people and I thank them and their families for their service and dedication to this country.”