The air was buzzing with tangible excitement, expectations were high, the grins broad, the hugs strong, and the greetings exuberant as some veterans had not seen each other in many many years! On Thursday evening the first ‘campers’ arrived at the farm pitching their tent with braaivleis fires illuminating the darkness. On Friday morning some vendors selling military paraphernalia unpacked their wares, including original ‘dog tags’ that were made on order. The military atmosphere was set with a cargo chute covering the one wall. At the entrance, a camouflage net was used as backdrop with parachute equipment on display, and weapons in the likes of AK47, R4, and a RPD. The Recces had impressive special forces regalia and books which was manned by JJ Prinsloo and his daughter. Amidst all the buzz in the hall, framed photographs of two of the most respected men, Kieser and Landman, kept a watchful eye over the proceedings. A St Michael statue, was given a prominent place in the displays. St Michael is known as the guardian angel.
On Friday evening approximately 250+ people attended the Recce storytelling evening, intently listening to the three speakers as they spoke on Operation Coolidge and subsequent run in with crocodiles. All of the men on this operation received a Honoris Crux. Vaalbank Zuid Neighbourhood Watch took charge of the kitchen with delicious curry and rice served. To sooth parched throats, the bar was run by Nico’s son, also called Nico; and Drikus Botha. #Julle is ‘n ysters gewees!
By 10h00 on Saturday morning the veterans and their families started arriving. We were blessed to have gents from the Rhodesian Rifles, 61Meg, 32 Battalion, and the Dogs of War supporting us paratrooper veterans in large numbers. The gents thoroughly kuiered. By 14h00 it was time for the parade. Raymond Ralph, took the role of parade sergeant major seriously and called the parade to attention. General Roland De Vries received the General’s salute as the 1 Parachute Battalion flag was hoisted. Wreaths were laid by William Burkett for the paratrooper veterans, and representatives from the Rhodesian rifles,32 battalion, 61Meg, and the Dogs of War.
De Vries spoke candidly about Operation Meebos and the tragic day in 1982 when the Puma helicopter was shot down by the enemy in which 15 young men paid the ultimate price. During a moment of silence and prayer the veterans remembered their fallen comrades as their names were called out.
Japie Keet and team with support from the Bloemfontein Skydive club parachuted in at about 15h00 when the cloud base lifted sufficiently for them to jump. ACDC’s Thunderstruck played full volume as they came down. Between the pilot and the parachutists they have approximately 18 000 jumps between them #Salute #Respect gentlemen – you were awesome. Even the pilot did a low flyby, to everyone’s glee!
Special recognition was given to veteran Nols Schoeman from Welkom as he qualified as paratrooper 50 years ago.
Thank you to all who attended this wonderful two day event. A big shout out to all those who travelled from afar and who made an effort to attend. Thank you also to Recon Tactical, a Bloemfontein security company who was in charge of security at the premises. A big thank you to all the sponsors who supported the event
Rooiplaas rocks! We are going places and we offer a sense of camaraderie and belonging to all military veterans. We are looking forward to seeing you all again soon.
Nico & Naomi