Shocked veterans sent parcel from war-torn Middle East
SADDAM-era coins, an Iraqi soldier badge, a survival map and a ceremonial flag...
These were the contents of a surprise parcel sent this week to the Grafton RSL Sub-Branch by one of its members serving in Iraq, giving the recipients a small insight into the war being fought more than 13,000km away.
President Brian Bultitude said veteran members of the sub-branch frequently send off clothing care packages to local soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and last did so about three weeks ago.
But this week was the first time they had a soldier return the favour while in the field.
Inside the box from the former Grafton High School student - now a captain of the Australian Army based north-west of Baghdad - was a thank-you letter, a representation of an Iraqi pilot's escape map, a selection of coins from life under Saddam's regime, a badge worn by the "Jundis" (the Iraqi word for soldier), and a ceremonial Iraqi flag.
In his letter, the captain thanked the RSL club for its package and said he would proudly wear the clothing at the Taji Military Complex, the base for Task Group Taji, this Anzac Day.
"When they come back home, the soldiers normally say thank you, but that's the first time we've had a response from someone while they're still overseas, which is a bit of a thrill," sub-branch secretary Dennis Benfield said.
The task group's aim, according to the Department of Defence, is to support the international effort to train and build the capacity of the regular Iraqi Security Forces.
"Task Group Taji-2 is doing well ... we are training the Jundi to a high standard and they are performing well in battle. Such as the recent battle for Ramadi," a department statement read.
Both Kiwi and Aussie soldiers are working well together in the best traditions of Anzac spirit on the eve of the centenary of the battles of the Somme.