HUNDREDS of veterans came on motorbikes, some travelled with caravans and many drove through the night to witness and celebrate the opening of retreat for veterans in Macarthur.
One Vietnam veteran left Gippsland at 2am on Saturday morning with a rest stop at Lismore and another spent all Friday on the road from Sydney.
The event brought Senator Jacqui Lambie to the farming community and she said the Cockatoo Rise War Veterans Retreat would serve as a timeout for service men and women where they could talk to their mates.
"To the local community thank you so much, we do not have enough of these around and I tell you what these guys behind you... they've served in (the) Middle East over the last 20 years, they're absolutely depleted," she said.
"A lot of these guys in the Middle East have done multiple tours... they've just been run through the mill like a greyhound on a greyhound track, they're asked to fight for their country and you won't get a no out of these boys, that's the way it is, that's the way they're trained. So for your service thank you."
Senator Lambie has called for a Royal Commission into veterans' suicides and wants to see a quicker implementation of service hubs where veterans can get the adequate support they need. "If everyone keeps putting in and heading in that direction we'll get there eventually," she said.
"But don't wait for those politicians to do it for us guys because they ain't going to. We have to pick up our own slack.
"That community right around Australia is behind everyone of you and I know we're too proud to ask for thanks and we don't do that ...but the sentiment out there with the community across this country is phenomenal so please don't forget that.
"For you guys who've served, stick together, it has been a tough 20 years and the country asked more of you than what they should have and I thank the community for taking them in."
For Greg Carter, who purchased the Macarthur Hotel in 2019, it was recognition of the commitment and support of businesses and individuals.
He said the historic pub had been given a new lease on life. "To the many who stay and visit, the respite it provides for homeless and other veterans just needing a place to feel safe and secure, a place to feel at peace with others who have endured similar experiences, be they different theatres of war," he said.
"I've said many times, when you're shot at it makes no difference what the enemy is wearing - the feeling is the same."
In touching moment, Mr Carter, Senator Lambie and Adam Kent from Warrnambool's RSL Active, were presented with handmade quilts to acknowledge their sacrifices for the country.
Quilts of Valour Australia Hamilton representative Matthew Lynch said the gift of the quilts was to symbolise warmth, peace and healing.
"Each stitch represents the love, and sometimes a tear, of the maker," he said.
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