The local Vietnam veterans’ community is set to gather this weekend to pay their respects, remember old friends and reflect on what was some of Australia’s darkest days.
Originally known as Long Tan Day, Vietnam Veterans Day is held each year on August 18, to commemorate those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice in the long and bloody war.
With this year’s service marking 50 years since the Battles of Coral and Balmoral, the St Marys Vietnam Veterans’ Outpost is inviting locals to pay their respects at a commemorative service this Saturday at 5pm.
Secretary of the St Marys Vietnam Veterans, Sam Vecchio arrived in Vietnam in 1970 and was there for 10 months driving soldiers to and from battle.
“It’s just a reflection of what happened back in Vietnam, each one of us has a different story and a different experience,” Mr Vecchio said.
The longest military engagement in Australia during the 20th century, the Vietnam War saw 60,000 Australians fight, with more than 500 losing their lives.
It was also the first ever war that was televised for all to see, which President of St Marys Vietnam Veterans, Tony Mullavey, said turned a lot of people against them, with returning soldiers often met with hostile protestors.
“It is a different time and it’s something that is hard to talk to people about, but yet it’s harder for people to understand what you’re living with,” he said.
“Policemen have a certain way with each other, nurses have a certain way with each other and to put it plainly, we are the only ones who can put shit on each other and laugh about it.”
With almost 300 local members made up of veterans and their partners, the Outpost has been providing support to veterans since 1995, ensuring that people of this war will never be forgotten.
“The Korean veterans, it’s a story that has never really been told, they’re called the forgotten war,” Mr Mullavey said.
“This war was going to be swept under the carpet but because of this organisation, we have made sure that it is still out there.”
Saturday’s memorial will be held at the Corner of Hall St and Mamre Rd in St Marys from 5pm.
For more information on the service, visit www.vvaastmarys.com.au.
Lauren Suttie is the Weekender’s General & Community News journalist.