Poignant plaque revealed decades on from soldier son’s death
John Meyers is a great believer in fate. He has been startled dozens of times at unexpected connections, coincidences and information that crop up when he chats with visitors to his Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum.
Nothing, however, prepared him for the deeply personal encounter on Saturday with Jason Harrison, the curator of the 2 Battalion museum at Townsville.
Mr Meyers learned of a plaque dedicated to his son Geoffrey, who died with his sister Karen in a road crash 38 years ago. "It blew me about of the water. I never knew it existed."
Mr Meyers and his wife Else dedicated their Wharf Street museum to the memory of their two children, Geoffrey, 18, and Karen, 16, who died together north of Gympie in November 1982.
"I don't usually go to the museum on Saturdays but last week I went to wish the volunteers on that roster Merry Christmas. It was a quiet day but there was one chap upstairs having a good look around.
"I got talking to him and learned he was the museum curator at Lavarack Barracks in Townville. I mentioned that Geoffrey had been serving with 2/4 Bn at Lavarack Barracks when he was killed.
"Jason pulled out his phone and showed me photos of Geoff's plaque located in the grounds of the Lavarack Barracks chapel. I had no idea."
Mr Meyers copied the images and took them home to his wife. Feelings were raw when she saw her son's name etched into the plaque. Tears were shed. She tries to explain how she felt but swallows hard: the words don't form.
"Else and I were astounded to see this recognition because in the 38 years since the accident we were never aware that these plaques existed," said Mr Meyers.
After a shattering experience, the couple picked up their lives but "memories are always there".
"Then something like this happens to bring it to the surface. It's something new in your life.
"In some respects it's just a plaque in the ground but to us it is so much more."
Set in fanning rows near the chapel, the Lavarack plaques relate to all soldiers serving at the barracks who have lost their lives in non-combat circumstances since the barracks opened in 1964.
Mr Harrison has invited Mr and Mrs Meyers to the Army base in 2021 so they can see their son's plaque. "We're looking forward to going up when the weather cools. A time for standing there and reflecting."
In an email sent to Mr Meyers after their meeting, Mr Harrison said he had been saddened to learn about his personal connection to the Battalion but glad to be able show him the Garden of Remembrance plaque in Geoff's memory.
"Please feel free to contact me at anytime for further information about your son. I have attached the C Coy roll from 1982, he served in 8 Platoon. His LCPL is a friend of mine who said he was an eager young fellow and a good dig(ger)."
Mr and Mrs Meyers are also sending photographs and information about Geoffrey to be included in the Lavarack memorial records.