‘Fair go’ for Vietnam vets who missed medal


Dear Editor,

For around 50 years now, more than 3000 Australian National Service Vietnam veterans have been denied the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, simply because they were returned home from the war zone before serving six months there. Their early return was due to the expiration of their lawful Australian National Service obligation.

Many of these brave men are too ashamed to march on Anzac Day. They feel like second-class Vietnam veterans and some now suffer opprobrium from their comrades.  They are very distressed because this non-recognition of their service with a foreign medallic award came about through no fault of their own.

The South Vietnamese government, which willingly accepted Australian forces’ combat assistance, would not have intended these Australian national servicemen to be denied recognition for their contribution, in the cynical way that their own government has done.

The Republic of Vietnam’s Directive for this award provides for the Australian Government to determine eligibility for its own personnel. Politics aside, on both moral and ethical grounds, these men deserve recognition for their honourable and lawful period of active service as National Servicemen. They believe strongly that the Directive gives the government ample justification for this.

Unfortunately the Ombudsman found that he was unable to investigate this situation as it had already been investigated by Defence Honours & Awards Appeals Tribunal (DHAAT) and considered by the minister. These men do not ask the government to change the eligibility criteria for the RVCM, but rather for it to exercise its discretion in determining eligibility for its own personnel as per the Vietnamese Directive.

National Service obligation was for 2 years and 2 years only (later 18 months). Those men who returned from South Vietnam before six months active service met their obligation and were honourably discharged, having done their duty according to law. They were under no obligation whatsoever to extend their service. Most were not keen to extend because their previous employers were only obliged to reinstate their previous jobs after they served the required period of NS, no more. Naturally they did not wish to risk their civilian employment.

These men simply ask for a fair go, not amendment of the criteria. They just want a fair and empathetic interpretation, procedural fairness and natural justice. Political parties could easily pledge themselves in a spirit of non-partisanship, to stop the negativity, reviews, inquiries, obfuscation and immediately fix this un-Australian neglect.

Readers, do you think this denial is really a “Fair Go”?

Richard Barry
Narrabri NSW 2390


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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

One thought on “‘Fair go’ for Vietnam vets who missed medal

  • 26/11/2018 at 11:22 pm

    Fair go?

    I dunno about this one.

    If a National Servicemen served less than 181 days in Vietnam they are entitled to four medals:
    Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal
    Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75
    Australian Defence Medal
    Anniversary of National Service 1951-1972 Medal

    Each of these medals, like any medal or award, has a set criteria.
    Contrary to what the writer says, National Servicemen have not been denied any medal.

    If a National Serviceman was unable to serve the requisite 181 days in Vietnam, they are not entitled to the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal unless they were:
    Killed on active service (KIA)
    Wounded in action i.e. classified as a Battle Casualty and evacuated as a result of those wounds
    Captured and later released or escaped.

    The writer seems to suggest that National Servicemen could not lengthen their stay in Vietnam because they had to return to their civilian employment. Consequently, they have missed out on a medal. The writer further states, ” Many of these brave men are too ashamed to march on Anzac Day. They feel like second-class Vietnam veterans and some now suffer opprobrium from their comrades. They are very distressed because this non-recognition of their service with a foreign medallic award came about through no fault of their own.”

    Suffer opprobrium from their comrades?

    The writer is kidding, isn’t he?

    If the exception criterion was amended from killed, wounded and captured to include, “Had to return home to civilian employment,” then they would definitely suffer opprobrium, whatever that means.

    So that’s a NO from me.

    Ian Cavanough


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