I LEFT Canberra just after 7 am in the freezing cold; a bit of fog about and plenty of road kill on the verges. Balaclava, thermals, heated grips on (don’t knock it till you try it) and more layers than a fat bloke should need. I was on my way down to Batemans Bay to meet up with the Veterans MC, Federal Chapter, to attend the Vietnam Veterans Day service on the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. The Eurobodalla branch of the Vietnam Veterans, Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association of Australia were hosting the service and the Veterans MC make the trip down the Clyde and meet up with the South Coast chapter.
Most of the blokes were a bit smarter than me and went down the afternoon before spending the night having a few ales and catching up with their brothers.
I pulled into Zorbas Hotel at about 9:15 and the blokes were already gathering in the carpark getting ready for the short ride down Beach Road to the Memorial. We headed off around 10 am in a tight group of around 30 bikes much to the delight of most of the locals. Shortly after arriving at the Memorial Park about 20 members of the South Coast Chapter arrived to join us.
I have never attended this service before and was impressed with the turn up. There were many Veterans on hand with the organisers having us form up in three ranks, very loosely these days.
The local cadets from 222 Cadet Group formed the Colour Guard, some Navy personnel formed the catafalque party, the Moruya and District Band provided the sounds.
There was a speech by retired Brigadier John Sheldrick outlining the story of Phil ‘Doc’ Dobson, the D Coy 6 RAR medic, one of the heroes of Long Tan and Mentioned in Dispatches. Unfortunately, Doc passed away a few weeks before the 50th anniversary.
There was also a song and speech from members of the Sydney Vietnamese community who attend this annual event in appreciation and as allies from the War.
With the formalities out of the way, we headed back to the motel to drop off the bikes and walk across to the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club for a lunch and function provided by the Vietnam Veterans, Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association in the auditorium. A great feed, plenty of beers, some raffles, and a few more speeches made a good afternoon which carried on to a great night.
The local line-dancing club were practising and appreciated the efforts of the blokes who scored them on their moves Olympic style, although we did decline the opportunity to join them. Most of us from Canberra and the South Coast spent the night to catch with old mates and make new ones.
I was a bit dusty as we packed up on Friday morning, even the bacon and egg roll and a huge coffee didn’t make much difference, although the view from the hotel was great. Being in landlocked Canberra I realise on days like this how much I miss living near the ocean.
It was a beautiful day for a ride as we headed up the Clyde stopping in Braidwood to say our goodbyes as we all peel off to go our separate ways on the way back into the city.
The significance of Vietnam Veterans Day cannot be oversold. The way these Veterans were treated on their return from the war was disgraceful. The attitude change between then and now is very stark and we rightly commemorate the sacrifice that all who serve and their families make. There is a patch that many members of the Veterans MC wear that reflects the attitude change: Never again will one generation of Veterans abandon another.
Ride safe and FREE. Mork.