Today our nation will pause to mark Vietnam Veterans’ Day, the key commemoration in this 50th anniversary year of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Thousands of Australians will gather at the Vietnam Forces Memorial in Canberra, and across the country, to honour the service and sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans.
On 18 August 1966, Australians and New Zealanders were outnumbered 10 to one in the battle of Long Tan. It was the single greatest loss of life Australia suffered during the Vietnam War – 18 Australians were killed and 24 were wounded.
In the years that followed, Vietnam veterans gathered to commemorate those lost at Long Tan. Now we gather on 18 August each year to mark Vietnam Veterans’ Day, paying tribute to all those who served in Australia’s longest conflict of the 20th century.
60,000 Australian personnel served in Vietnam over more than a decade, which sadly resulted in 523 lives lost, and some 3,000 wounded. For their service, and the sacrifices of their families, we say thank you.
In reflecting on the significance of this day, and the treatment of Servicemen returning from this conflict, Australian Prime Minister, Mr Anthony Albanese MP, said we owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans.
“This year, as we mark the 50th anniversary since the role of Australian troops in the hostilities in Vietnam came to a close, we acknowledge the service and sacrifice made by our veterans.”
“Their experiences during and after the war are a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by those who have served our country and the debt of gratitude we owe each and every one of our veterans”.
“Many of our troops returned to face new battles at home and not every one of those battles was won – it is important as Australians we know the stories of service in Vietnam and what our veterans faced when they returned home.
“We honour you, we thank you and we are so sorry it took us so long as a nation to do so.”
Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Federal Member for New England Mr Barnaby Joyce has reflected on the importance of recognising the Servicemen involved in this conflict.
“For some they had no choice – they were drafted. For others it was their job – they were ‘regs’ and you go where you are ordered. Others hated Communism and genuinely believed it to be a near imminent threat to everything that made Australia. Some had a spirit that craved adventure.”
“They all had one thing in common – they were doing it for Australia, and it might cost them their life,” Mr Joyce said.
“523 paid the supreme sacrifice and the sorrow hangs like a fog in photos, stories and plaques; but a lesser sadness goes far wider.
“The maimed, the disturbed, the marriages torn apart and broken families, the lost opportunities, the feelings that the world has moved on ’without me in it’.”
“So today, as we commemorate 50 years since Australia ended its participation in the Vietnam War, we say that these were men and women of honour; and that honour now lives in their families.”
“Before you say ‘lest we forget’, say ‘sorry’, then say ‘thank you’, then think aren’t you lucky that they did their job for you. Then ‘Lest we forget’.”
In commemorations across the New England, many people have gathered to remember their mates, their loved ones, and those who returned to be victimised for their involvement in this unpopular war. To commemorate this day and to remember all those that served in Vietnam, there will be a number of events in Armidale, Uralla and Inverell (among other places).
A Vietnam Veterans Service was held Armidale in the Drill Hall at the Gaza Barracks, followed by a BBQ lunch.
At 5pm, Uralla will hold a Sunset Service at the Vietnam Memorial at Alma Park to pay a special tribute to their two local men who lost their lives in Vietnam, L/CPL Ross McMillan and PTE Trevor Attwood. Everyone is very welcome to attend and pay their respects.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the Inverell RSL Sub Branch have organised a Bell UH-1H Iroquois Helicopter (better known by its nickname of “Huey”) to be in Inverell for the commemoration.
The Huey will land at Varley Oval and will be available from 12noon to 3pm to provide a static display. All members of the Inverell and district community are encouraged to come down and have a look – this kind of aircraft is rare and the opportunity may not arise again.
The Huey will also provide a flyover during the Vietnam Veterans Commemoration. This commemoration is held at the Vietnam Memorial situated at the Evans & Lawrence St corner of the Inverell RSM Club at 4.30pm.