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Mrs Kathie Cosgrove

Kathie Cosgrove knew the instant she met the handsome man in Army uniform that they would one day marry.

The smartly dressed soldier, with straight back and striking presence warmly shook his father’s hand and hugged his mother.

Around them at the Hume Street, Goulburn house were a host of well wishers welcoming Brian Cosgrove home from the Vietnam War.

“I hadn’t particularly wanted to go to the party but my mother told me: ‘You’re going whether you like it or not. That boy has put his life on the line to serve this country,” Mrs Cosgrove said.

“But as soon as I saw him, it was love at first sight. We married nine weeks later.”

He was a “born soldier”, the son of British immigrants who came to Australia to give their sons a better life than what the coalmines offered.

His father, Norman, had served in the British Army in World War Two, was captured in Singapore and later worked on the infamous Thai Burma railway. He remained in the Army and after moving to Australia, was posted to the 13 th Battalion in Goulburn.

The life made an impression on his son. Brian joined the Australian Army in 1964 and from 1966-67, served as a rifleman in 6 RAR in Vung Tau, Vietnam. He stayed in the Army until 1970.

“He loved and lived army life but he was also very compassionate. He was someone who was very special,” Mrs Cosgrove said.

Her husband never talked about his war experiences and she would only find out from an old Army mate days before he died about his kind deeds. While soldiers were often out drinking on rest days, Brian, a Lance Corporal and later Corporal, would be checking on men in his Company, asking if they were okay and whether they’d had letters from home.

Other times he would take his food rations and share them with villagers.

“There’s a photo of him in the rice paddy fields with kids all around him and this wonderful look on his face,” Kathie said.

“He loved children and understood that they were suffering and in poverty.”

But after the war, it became clear to Mrs Cosgrove her husband had something else in common with his father. It started with headaches, then strategically sitting in the corner of rooms, surveying who was coming through the door and everything going on.

“He felt he had to protect us and he cut himself off. The only people we could welcome into our home in the end was family,” Mrs Cosgrove said.

“…He was on alert until the day he died.”

She counts herself lucky that unlike many post traumatic stress sufferers, her husband was not a big drinker.

Brian died in November 2011, two and a half years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He left behind his wife and three grown daughters.

“Losing him was like losing half of myself,” Mrs Cosgrove said.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Mrs Cosgrove took up her brother-in-law’s suggestion to introduce herself to Goulburn Legacy.

“The first time I went to an afternoon tea, I felt like a fraud,” she said.

“A lady served me and I thought: ‘I should be waiting on her.’ Most of the ladies were older and I didn’t think it was for me. But very soon I realised we all had one thing in common – we’d all lost a husband to war or the effects of war.

“Now I feel like I’m part of a family. I love the bus trips and we have a lot of laughs. It’s a great support and I know someone is always there if I need them.”

Mrs Cosgrove describes Legacy as her saving grace. In return, she volunteers during Legacy Week, selling merchandise to raise funds for its ongoing work.

“I’ll always encourage people to support Legacy. They do a
fantastic job”.