Doug Baird remembers a few things about his first visit to Kapooka back in February 2000.
His son Cameron was marching out and he can picture him clearly standing firm and straight, but his chin guard had slipped.
“It was sort of under his bottom lip and we got video of him trying with his tongue and his mouth contorting and trying to get that strap back under his chin, I think that was one of the funny things we remember,” he said.
Happy memories flooded back for Mr Baird as he visited Kapooka again on Friday to watch a fresh bunch of recruits march out. The other thing that springs to mind is finding out that Cameron had won an award.
“We arrived and at the gate coming in we were given an itinerary and my wife said ‘oh look at this Cameron has been awarded most outstanding soldier’,” he said.
Corporal Cameron Baird went on to distinguish himself in the defence forces, but was killed in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province on June 22, 2013.
He died during an assault where he repeatedly engaged the enemy and drew fire away from his team members and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in February, 2014.
The outstanding soldier award was renamed in Cameron’s in 2016 and Mr Baird was back in Wagga to hand out the Baird VC, MG Award. The event brought up a mix of emotions for Mr Baird.
“When I arrived here and got off the plane I felt excited and when I drove up to the base and saw the sign ‘home of the soldier’ it really did stir the emotions to be back here again,” he said.
“I got the opportunity to speak to a number of parents with their son or daughter. It was hard but it was something I wanted to do.”
As a parent who lost his son to the institution these young men and women are now pledging themselves to, it wasn’t easy, but proved therapeutic, he said.
“For me to be able to talk to parents and guide them through and answer any questions they’ve got, particularly in respect to Cameron losing his life, simple things like why do you still support the army, why do you encourage people to join the army?” he said.
“Talking to the parents is like therapy to me.”
From Friday, the award that bears Cameron’s name will now be a trophy that bears his likeness.
Colonel Andrew Deacon, the Commandant of Kapooka, said: “Linking the valour of CPL Baird to an award for our newest soldiers is a moving reminder for all our recruits – and also to their friends and families gathered for the march out – of what being an Australian soldier means.”