THE 18th of August is Vietnam Veterans day. The date is significant as it was on this day in 1966 that D Coy 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, engaged with an estimated 2500 VC and NVA in a rubber plantation near Long Tan in Phuoc Tuy province, South Vietnam. There are volumes of material dedicated to this significant battle from the Vietnam War with the outcome seen as a huge victory for the Australian troops with New Zealand artillery support. It is a fascinating story.
The day has become so much more for our Veterans who served in Vietnam. These men and women were much maligned by sectors of the Australian public for taking part in an unpopular war. Mail was stopped from being sent to them, ships taking supplies to them were not loaded by striking wharfies, upon their return they were spat on and called baby killers. These were people doing a job their government had asked them to do; many of them were conscripted to do so. In fact 11 of the 18 Australian soldiers killed in the Battle of Long Tan were National Servicemen.
Australia was involved in the Vietnam War from 1962 until 1973 but it was not until 1987 that there was a Welcome Home Parade for these Veterans in Sydney.
In June 2016 the remains of 33 people, many of them Vietnam Veterans, were returned to Australia via Richmond Air Force Base. Australia was in the lead up to a Federal election and both the incumbent Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were in Sydney on the day of their return; neither of them attended the ceremony.
The 18th of August takes on special significance for people involved in the Veteran community. We remember the sacrifice of our Vietnam Veterans and also take the time to remember all of our fallen and acknowledge the sacrifice those in our Defence Forces make.
For the past two years I have attended the Vietnam Veterans Day Service at Batemans Bay on the Eurobodalla Coast South of Sydney. There is always a large crowd in attendance with Vietnam Veterans, Australian and Vietnamese, members of the Vietnamese community, current serving members of the ADF, Army Cadets, emergency service personnel, school kids, local dignitaries and many others marking the occasion. Approximately 50 members of the Veterans Motorcycle Club Federal and South Coast Chapters made the journey from Canberra and Nowra.
After the ceremony there is a lunch put on at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club by the Eurobodalla Vietnam Veterans Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association. Drinks are drunk and stories are told; we commemorate and appreciate what they have done as we should have from the start. As a young Digger in the 1980’s these men were my teachers and mentors. When I went through Kapooka in 1980 many of my instructors were Vietnam Veterans; when I went overseas in 1982 my Platoon Sergeant was a Vietnam Veteran. Today I am proud to call many of them Brother.
The sacrifice our defence force personnel continue to make should never again be ignored or worse reacted to like it was in the 1970’s.
They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them….
Lest We Forget