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.
FILE PHOTO: Soldier from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, (6RAR), move into their first operation against the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. The infantry occupied a large Viet Cong village during the mission, code-named Operation Enoggera, in the last week of June 1966. Photo by William ‘Billy’ Cunneen. AWM CUN/66/0504/VN
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 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 the war in which 60,000 Australian personnel served over more than a decade.
The Vietnam War resulted in 523 Australian lives lost, and some 3000 wounded.
For their service, and the sacrifices of their families, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said “Thank you” on behalf of the nation.
“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,” Prime Minister Albanese said.
“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.”
Minister for Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel Matt Keogh said that when we speak of the Anzac spirit, we speak of having your mates backs, no matter how dire the circumstances.
“But when our veterans returned home from Vietnam many felt unsupported, unrecognised,” Mr Keogh said.
“In marking 50 years since the end of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, we honour and thank all those who served, and the sacrifices of their families.
“You have made your nation proud.”
To acknowledge this 50th anniversary, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has produced a Commemorative Medallion and Certificate of Commemoration, available to every Vietnam veteran and the families of Vietnam veterans who have passed away.
For more information about the 50th anniversary or to apply for a commemorative medallion, visit the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website at dva.gov.au/vietnam50