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Honouring Vietnam Veterans – a tribute to service and sacrifice

On 18 August 2023, Australia united in solemn reflection to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Celebrated as Vietnam Veterans’ Day, a date etched in history, it traces its origins to the Battle of Long Tan on August 18, 1966.

Over the years, this day has transformed into a poignant remembrance, paying homage to the sacrifices of all Australians who served and made the ultimate sacrifice during the country’s ten-year commitment to the Vietnam War.

Some 60,000 Australian men and women served in the Vietnam War. Tragically, 523 Australians lost their lives in the war, and over 3,000 were wounded.

Vietnam Veterans’ Day remains a collective tribute to veterans from the Air Force, Army and Navy. It became a day to remember the courage and resilience of those commemorated on the Roll of Honour, offering homage to their indomitable commitment.

The Australian Government marked the 50th anniversary with a national service held at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.

The President of the Air Force Association of Western Australia Clive Robartson laid the wreath on behalf of the Air Force Association.

National AFA President Carl Schiller said he was privileged to share the honour of laying a wreath for all Air Force veterans with Lance Halvorson, a long-standing AFA member.

Schiller said it was a moving ceremony: “Even 50 years on there was a lot of emotion, and the names of all of the fallen 523 were listed and commemorated on a remembrance board. A lot of the Vietnam veterans are now aged and, therefore, a veterans’ march was not considered. Instead, they were asked to stand to receive a General Salute from serving members in attendance. It was a momentous acknowledgement by our serving comrades.”

Schiller said societal attitudes had been changing towards returning veterans.

“There used to be a different mindset about who was a returned soldier, with a divide between those who went to world wars and those went to lesser conflicts. But today we send people to all kinds of conflicts and operations that may be highly dangerous. We have to modernise our thinking to ensure that all veterans are looked after.

“We stand by all veterans regardless of what service they belong to, and we would want them to reach out to us if they need assistance.”

Caption: Australia’s Federation Guard march on parade during the commemoration service at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra. Photographer Nicole Mankowski. Credit Defence Image Library.

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