‘I owe it to my country’: Gift that left veteran in tears
Ronald Flaherty patiently waits for the clock to strike 7am before performing a simple task that fills him with pride.
Flaherty, now in his 80s, has never been one minute late to raise or lower the Australian flag at Dicky Beach Blue Care retirement village.
He sees it as more than a job. It’s his duty.
Flaherty, known as Joe, ensures the flag is flying every morning, as his way to continue serving the country he loves.
Joe served in the Royal Australian Navy as a Chief Petty Officer Clearance Diver since he was 17, through to 1970.
He toured in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam three times, and Borneo.
Based in Papua New Guinea for four and a half years, Joe also guarded the Jap POWs (prisoners of war).
After his career, Joe continued with the emergency fleet reserve for 15 years, and likes to keep his connection with the sub branch of the Caloundra RSL.
Joe said watching the flags scoot up the pole each morning reminded him of the great country he worked so hard to protect.
When asked why he does it, a teary-eyed Joe replied with a lump in his throat: “I owe it to my country”.
“I have great love for Australia,” he said.
“We’re very lucky to have such a country and such lovely people.”
Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace recently presented Joe with a new Australian flag as the old one had aged.
“It was getting shorter and shorter every day because we’ve had to sew it up so many times,” Joe said.
As the chairman of the Defence Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Mr Wallace said it was a privilege to present the flag to Joe.
“It’s always my privilege to represent the Commonwealth in our dealings with veterans, particularly with someone like Joe who has served Australian with such distinction in Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam and Korea,” he said.
“As a nation we have a debt of gratitude to our service personnel whether they’re currently serving in the ADF or in Joe’s case he joined in 1948.
“You can see that he’s very passionate about still serving his country, and while it’s in a different capacity now, he sees that the raising and the lowering of the flag every day as a duty and an obligation, but obviously one he does with great relish.”
Dicky Beach Blue Care manager Karren Estologa said Joe’s love for his country was so inspiring they relocated the flag pole to a safer place for him to continue his ritual.
“His love for his country never faded, and it speaks so much of him as a person that he really values his experiences and the people around him,” she said.
Joe thanked Mr Wallace for the new flag as he raised it for the first time and saluted.