Better late than never
FORMER SAS major and boat lover Alan Ing was supposed to be alongside his mates to celebrate the recent Vietnam Veterans' Day memorial service.
Instead, thanks to rough weather and engine failure, Mr Ing was stuck at sea on his yacht and had to do his best to improvise his own tribute to fallen veterans, flying his flag at half mast.
The Jolly Roger flag, that is.
Mr Ing, 65, had been driving his yacht north against the current and wind through the straits between Fraser Island and the coast when his engine failed.
The ex-special forces officer, who is also the vice-president of the Central Queensland Vietnam Veterans' Motorcycle Club, was forced to try to sail the rest of the way to Burrum Heads, taking an extra two days and missing the commemoration of the Battle of Long Tan on August 18.
He had left on Thursday, August 16, for what should have been a 15-hour boat trip, and was due to attend the service at Camp Gregory, a plot of land on the Gregory River bought by a Vietnam veteran for use by other vets.
But he didn't make it to the entrance of the Burrum River until noon on Sunday.
"I couldn't even call them to let them know because there was no mobile phone signal," Mr Ing said.
"So I held my own service on the boat. I flew the Jolly Roger flag at half mast to signify the deaths of 501 Australians who lost their lives in Vietnam."
The ex-parachute and underwater specialist instructor, who has made more than 3570 parachute jumps, said he had only bought the yacht, The Pearl, a couple of weeks before.
Mr Ing's service record includes stints in Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and other classified areas, and he worked with the Australian SAS in various capacities from 1968-1998.
In later years he acted as an instructor in underwater operations and freefall parachute techniques for the world-class special forces outfit.
During the Vietnam War, Mr Ing served behind enemy lines collecting intelligence on troop movements.
"We moved in small teams so we could stay quiet," Mr Ing said.
Mr Ing can speak several languages and attended the 50th Anniversary of the SAS Regiment in Perth in 2007.
"I will be attending the diamond anniversary due in 2017," he said.