Last Sunday I attended a remembrance service in Shepparton to honour our Vietnam veterans on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
It was a warm and sunny morning as the veterans marched from Shepparton RSL to memorial park, where Mr John Methven, who served in the Vietnam War with the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in 1967–68, spoke with emotion about commemorating those who lost their lives but also those who survived the war.
He said that it is only after 50 years that veterans are being recognised and rewarded for the sacrifice they made in going to war. He spoke of the fact that veterans were not well treated when they returned to Australia after the war and also of how Vietnam veterans had to start by helping themselves. Three Goulburn Valley veterans who had died during the Vietnam War were acknowledged at the service, and three crosses were placed on the cenotaph.
Today I attended the Vietnam Veterans Day commemorations held at the Shrine of Remembrance, again to mark the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. It was a very worthy remembrance ceremony, and I hope that it will contribute to healing the pain of the past 50 years or so for many of the veterans who returned but did not have their sacrifice recognised. As I left the shrine to travel back to Parliament on the tram I spoke with a fellow traveller. I am not sure what led her to do so, but she shared with me the fact that she had been the girlfriend of a 21-year-old soldier from Tamworth who was conscripted and died in Vietnam. Fifty years later it was still so important to her to attend such a ceremony to commemorate the life of this young man that she knew, because the sadness remains.