A retired colonel with 30 years experience as a nursing officer with the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corp will give the main address at this year's Bangka Island massacre service.
The Port Macquarie RSL sub-Branch will host the commemoration at the cenotaph on Friday February 14.
Bronwyn Wheeler, who now lives on the Macleay with her partner, says she is looking forward to researching information on the massacre and preparing her address.
The Bangka Island massacre was committed on February 16, 1942 when Japanese soldiers killed 22 Australian Army nurses and some 60 Australian and British soldiers.
Colonel (ret) Wheeler says most speeches on the massacre centre on Vivian Bullwinkel the sole surviving nurse - a soldier also survived the massacre.
"I will be talking about the Bangka Island massacre," she said.
"Although we talk about Vivian Bullwinkle as a sole survivor, I will be researching to see if there was a nurse that has closer links to the Mid-North Coast," she said.
"If not, I will be selecting a nursing officer that was killed."
Colonel Wheeler served for just on three decades, predominantly in Wagga Wagga, Townsville and Canberra.
Her final posting prior to retiring was Victoria Barracks in Sydney.
She served on three deployments, to Rwanda in 1994 to 1995, East Timor in 1999 to 2000 and in Afghanistan in 2018.
She said all three deployments had their respective challenges.
"We went to Rwanda because the political hierarchy was wiped out and the Hutu and Tutsi declared war on each other," she said.
We went to Rwanda because the political hierarchy was wiped out and the Hutu and Tutsi declared war on each other.Colonel (ret) Bronwyn Wheeler
"We worked out of the hospital in the capital Kigali before moving to Kibuye where we set up a base to work out of a refugee camp.
"That consisted of seeing about 1200 people a day, treating them for different ailments.
"It was quite a challenge.
"In East Timor I was part of the treatment team and spent about four months there.
"It was good to be part of that team.
"In Afghanistan I was deployed as a senior gender advisor in Kabul. This was a NATO position that Australia had signed up to and supported."
Colonel Wheeler said the role required her to engage with the Afghanistan national army and the national police to educate mainly men in regards to respect for women, equality and improving education for women.
With her three decade career behind her, the retired veteran encouraged women to consider the armed services.
Colonel Wheeler was the first woman nursing officer appointed as officer commanding one of the training companies at the first recruit training battalion at Kapooka.
"That was a step forward in my view and certainly one of the highlights of my career," she said.
"There are now women making major general rank and being deployed overseas while women are also being put in charge of brigades which was unheard of 30 years ago.
"I think it was also a positive step forward when training was combined too.
"The armed services is a great career for women who want to follow that path.
The armed services is a great career for women who want to follow that path.Colonel (ret) Bronwyn Wheeler
"It is still tough. It is not easy and you have to have a fair degree of robustness about you."
She said there were always "challenges" no matter which service you pursue.
Colonel Wheeler admitted she set the bar high in her own career and had "fairly high standards and expectations of others".
"But we are a professional organisation," she added.
The retired colonel said she was still finding her feet in civilian life after decades of routine and deadlines.
"It is very difficult stepping from the army to being a civilian. My working life was about process and a regimental way of living.
"Now I wake up and think what am I going to do today."
Before settling on the Macleay, Colonel Wheeler and her partner originally searched the South Coast but were enticed to the Mid-North Coast by friends.
"We extended our search further north and eventually found this beautiful place. The community is great and the entire Macleay Valley is really beautiful," she said.
The Bankga Massacre service will commence at 11am, and ends at about 11.40am. It will be held on the Town Square car park. Access to the cenotaph will be closed from 7.30am until 11.40am. There will be some minor traffic disruption in the vicinity of the cenotaph.
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