21 April 2023

Expanded Allied Forces contingent set to march back into this year's Anzac parade

| Travis Radford
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Frank Tottingham marching on ANZAC Day.

This year will mark former Marine Frank Tottingham’s (pictured) 23rd Anzac Day march. Photo: Frank Tottingham.

The Allied Forces contingent at Canberra’s 2022 Anzac Day parade was represented by lone former US Marine, now-Australian Defence Force (ADF) welfare officer, Frank Tottingham.

In 2022’s post-COVID haze, Mr Tottingham showed up as he had done for his last 20 or so Anzac Day marches and looked for the American sign, only to discover he was the only one.

Nonetheless, he says it was a privilege to join his then-22nd Anzac march to honour the Anzacs and his wife’s father and two grandfathers, who all served in the ADF.

“Whenever the Americans march … they’re always really in awe that Anzac Day in Australia is really like nothing that we’ve ever seen before,” he said.

“It doesn’t compare to any American sort of celebration or remembrance or national holiday.

“It has an incredible feel and spirit that is just very nice to be part of.”

READ ALSO Things to do in Canberra this Anzac Day

But this year, on Mr Tottingham’s 23rd Anzac march, he will be joined by 24 other current and former US service personnel in the Allied Forces contingent.

The expansion came after Australian American Association (AAA) Canberra division president Alicia Doherty and ACT RSL CEO Kimberley Hicks put their heads together.

“One of [the Association’s] members is the ACT RSL CEO, and she saw that I was doing lots of things to build memberships,” says Ms Doherty.

“And she said, ‘It would be really great if we could put together a group … because Anzac Day is about all of the partners involved over the years and the wars’.

“So I pulled together a little flyer and reached out, and some of our mates at the embassy knew of a group that was coming out for a visit.”

That group includes 17 current and former Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force personnel whose visit to the Australian Command and Staff College overlapped with Anzac Day.

READ ALSO War Memorial rolls out Anzac Day arrangements

Ms Doherty, who served in the US military herself and comes from a long line of veterans, will also join the visiting group, Mr Tottingham and several others in what will be her first march.

She said she also hoped to raise awareness about the 70th anniversary of the Australian-American Memorial in 2024, which Queen Elizabeth II unveiled during her first royal tour in 1954.

“The Association was, in 1948, responsible for actually initiating the project and then worked with [Prime Minister Robert] Menzies, and you could call it maybe the first kind of crowdfunding project in Australia,” she said.

“So much money was raised because a call-out was made to the Australian population to say, ‘We’d like to build something that thanks Americans for partnering with us and for working with us’.

“A lot of people just assume that it was a gift from the US, but it was actually a gift from Australians to Americans.”

Alicia and Larry Doherty at a military base

Ms Doherty (right) and her Australian husband (left) met while both were stationed at a US military base. Photo: Alicia Doherty.

The story behind how Ms Doherty met her now-husband Larry while she was stationed in Alabama is also a testament to Australia’s close relationship with the US.

“[The base] is so big we get a lot of defence forces from around the world coming to do courses because it’s best to train together and conduct exercises together,” she said.

“So Larry had come [from Australia] to learn how to be an instructor pilot on the Blackhawk helicopters and was stationed doing his course at Cairns Army Airfield [where] I was posted.”

“And just one morning Larry walked in, and he had his slouch hat on, and he came in laughing with his green eyes and little rosy cheeks, which I later found out were Vegemite cheeks.”

The pair hit it off, and Ms Doherty followed her now-husband back to Australia where they married some 30 years ago, with the Dohertys now calling Canberra their home.

For more information about events to commemorate Anzac Day 2023, visit Things to do in Canberra this Anzac Day.

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