9 September, 2021
Vietnam veterans paid respect
Last month, the Longreach RSL Sub Branch commemorated the veterans of the Vietnam War
VIETNAM Veterans’ Day, developed out of Long Tan Day, is a day to commemorate and thank those who fought and died during the Vietnam War.
The war was the longest war Australian troops had served up until the war in Afghanistan and has made a lasting impact on Australian culture.
Longreach RSL Sub Branch former President and Vietnam veteran Jim Egan said it was extremely important to see Vietnam Veterans’ Day seeing further prominence as an event.
“It took us 20 years to get recognised,” Mr Egan said.
“What I mean by that is that during or after the Vietnam War, if he wanted to join the RSL, he couldn’t.
“Because the old fellows said it didn’t classify as a war, so even the RSL turned their backs on us.
“So, to have this day put aside as Vietnam Veterans’ Day, it’s very important, it makes up for that loss coming back years ago.”
Mr Egan then echoed the sentiments of a poem he read at the dedication: What My Medals Mean by Ned Falconer, which details the difficulties Vietnam Veterans faced in the mainstream community after returning from the war.
“I’d never worn my medals, they were left there in the draw.
“So, when I finally took them out, it had been twenty years or more…
President of the Longreach RSL Sub Branch Chris Hamilton said there was a large period after the war where the Vietnam conflict was not spoken of in the mainstream.
“Finally, they had a welcome home in Sydney, then Vietnam veterans and their involvement in the Vietnam War gathered more prominence [in discourse],” he said.
This year’s Vietnam Veterans’ Day occurred shortly after the final withdrawals of troops in Afghanistan, which coloured the event in Longreach.
Mr Hamilton said the two wars echoed each other.
“There’s a lot of similarities yeah,” he said.
“Australian troops went to both theatres of war, did their job, and did a damn good job.
“They came back home and subsequently through no fault of the soldiers that were there — it was more a political thing that those countries have fell back to the enemy they were previously fighting: South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese and Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.”
Mr Hamilton said there were a lot of veterans old and new who would be feeling the same emotions today as the Vietnam Veterans would have in 1975.
“I think there is a lot of shared experiences; a lot of lessons we can get out of this event,” he said.