Enveloped in the creases of a wrinkled hand, a newly presented Pacific Star medal caught the sunlight as its 98-year-old owner, Peter Carberry, sat in the courtyard of his nursing home.
The medal was one of three Mr Carberry received, along with the Returned From Active Service Badge, when Regimental Sergeant Major-Army, Warrant Officer Grant McFarlane visited him at his nursing home in Tumut on October 3.
Having discharged before the war ended, Mr Carberry never applied for his medals – believing he wasn’t entitled to any – and rarely talked about the war.
Even as his medals were being presented, he humbly quipped about his entitlement to them.
“I’m not sure what they’re for. They must have had some spares lying around,” Mr Carberry said.
As a 21-year-old, Mr Carberry enlisted with the Army and was sent to Papua New Guinea, leaving behind his love, his parents, high-needs sister and the family farms.
His brother also enlisted but was captured in Italy and transferred to Germany as a POW.
In 1943, after serving for two years, Mr Carberry returned home on leave to attend his mother’s funeral.
He spent two weeks with his family and his bride before leaving them to head back to Papua New Guinea.
After his mother’s death and his brother’s capture, Mr Carberry felt the weight of the responsibility he had left his father with – looking after his sister and working the family’s three farms to keep up food supplies for the war, all by himself.
Eight months passed before Mr Carberry heard more heartbreaking news – his wife had lost their baby and almost died during child birth.
He served another few months before he took absence without leave. He was the subject of a search warrant and subsequently discharged on compassionate grounds.
Mr Carberry returned to his wife and the farms.
In the decades that followed, he said little about the war that had cost him time with his late mother, had caused his brother to be imprisoned and left him heartbroken for his wife and stillborn child.
It was only when Mr Carberry’s children and grandchildren were working out how to pay the fees for his nursing home care that they started to find answers to their questions about his service.
“He worked on the farm for most of his life so he didn’t have any superannuation and had never claimed a pension,” his grandson, Nathan Dean, said.
“We knew he had served but didn’t know much more than that, so we started making some enquiries and found out he was entitled to the veterans’ pension and these medals.”
Warrant Officer McFarlane said it was a privilege to present Mr Carberry with his badge and three medals - the Pacific Star, the War Medal 1939-1945 and the Australian Service Medal 1939-1945.
“I am proud to present these medals to Peter today for his service more than 70 years ago,” Warrant Officer McFarlane said.