For June O’Donnell, ANZAC Day is a commemoration of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and a reminder of the commitments and honours of being part of the defence community.
Her husband Lieutenant General Lawrence George O’Donnell AC (Retd) (Laurie) dedicated his life to serving his country. “He was accepting, proud and he was always being promoted,” June said.
While he may no longer remember his remarkable career and contributions, the memories continue to be shared through storytelling with family and friends.
June said today her husband remains a gentle soul who lives in the moment at our Residential Care home in Garran, ACT.
Among Laurie’s many appointments, he served in Malaya and South Vietnam, was an exchange instructor at the British Army Staff College, became Brigadier to command the 6th Task Force in Brisbane, Australia’s first Land Forces Commander, and was appointed Lieutenant General and Chief of the General Staff, which he relinquished in 1990.
At times, when Laurie would be away on courses or when in Vietnam, June and the pair’s three children would keep in touch via letters and tapes. June said over the space of 40 years, the family moved 26 times on Postings across Australia and abroad.
In 1954 at the age of 21, Laurie graduated from the Royal Military College in Duntroon where he was awarded the Queen’s Medal and was commissioned into the Royal Australian Armoured Corps. Little did he know that decades later as Representative Honorary Colonel of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, he and June would have the honour of attending the then-Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding in 2005. Laurie held a close relationship with Prince Charles and was chosen as part of the honour to head up the official Commonwealth Guard of Honour.
Laurie was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1986 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1989.
June said he has always been compassionate and generous and was recently reminded of this when she read an old letter from a soldier. “The soldier described him as someone who would be a leader and was kind,” she said.
June hopes the spirit and meaning of ANZAC Day will live on for generations. “I hope it remains as special as it always has been,” she said.