Australians will honour the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women during the Vietnam War at nationwide commemorative services this month.
The 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August — which is also Vietnam Veterans Day — will be the centrepiece of commemorations honouring Australia’s Vietnam War veterans.
Almost 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam from 1962 until 1975, 521 lost their lives and more than 3,000 were wounded. Many more veterans suffered, and continue to suffer, because of their service.
The Battle of Long Tan took place on 18 August 1966. It was the one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers in the Vietnam War, involving 105 Australians and three New Zealanders from D Company 6RAR. A total of 17 Australians were killed in action and 25 were wounded, one of whom later died of his wounds. D Company were greatly assisted by an ammunition resupply by RAAF helicopters, close fire support from New Zealand's 161 Field Battery, together with additional artillery support from the Australian task force base at Nui Dat, and the arrival of reinforcements in APCs as night fell.
The official program of events will include a Parliamentary Reception on 17 August, and a National Service at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra, followed by a Commemorative Parade at Enoggera Barracks, Brisbane on 18 August.
The Vietnam Veterans Stakeholder Committee, which includes representatives from ex-service organisations, has provided valuable input into planning this year’s commemorations.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan paid tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Australians who served in Vietnam.
"This year marks an important milestone in our history as we honour every Australian who served in Vietnam," Mr Tehan said.
"On the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan it’s time for Australia, as a nation, to pay our Vietnam veterans the respect they deserve for the service and sacrifice they gave to our country.
"I encourage everyone to learn more about Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and to understand the experiences of the men and women who served our country during that period."
The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, ACT & District Branch is the lead organisation for this year’s national service at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial. Its organising committee chair Pete Ryan said the commemorations were an opportunity for the nation to reflect on the Vietnam War.
"The commemorations have been organised by Vietnam veterans for the whole country," Mr Ryan said.
"We are proud to have served our nation and these commemorations will honour every single person who served their country during the Vietnam War."
Mr Tehan paid tribute to the organisations represented on the Vietnam Veterans Stakeholder Committee.
"I thank the Committee for their hard work and congratulate them on an excellent program of commemorations."
The Vietnam Veterans Stakeholder Committee includes representatives from the 6RAR Association; the Returned & Service League of Australia (RSL); the Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia (VVFA); LTCOL Harry Smith SG, MC (Ret’d); the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Association; the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA) and the Long Tan Association.
As part of the 50th anniversary commemorations, the Australian Government will provide financial assistance to Long Tan veterans travelling to Canberra, Brisbane or Vietnam.
17 August, 6.00pm, Parliamentary Reception, Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra
Organised by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This evening reception is for Vietnam veterans and their guests. The Colours of 6RAR will be presented, followed by a welcome address and speeches by senior officials and Mr Graham Smith, 6RAR, on behalf of all Vietnam veterans. Performances by John Schumann and a Defence Band.
18 August, 7.00am Stand-to Service, Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Organised by the Australian War Memorial, a ‘Stand-to’ Service similar to the Dawn Service will be held at the Stone of Remembrance in front of the Australian War Memorial.
18 August, 7.30am Breakfast in the Park, Reid Oval, Canberra
Catered by the Lions Club of Canberra, a breakfast for Vietnam veterans and their families supported by Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the ACT Government.
18 August, 10.00am National Service, Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Anzac Parade, Canberra
Organised by the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, ACT & District Branch, with assistance from the Vietnam Veterans Stakeholder Committee. The National Service will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. All welcome to attend and the service will be televised on ABC.
18 August, 3.15pm Commemorative Parade, Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera, Brisbane
Organised by the Australian Defence Force at Enoggera Barracks. Members of the Long Tan Veterans Association and the 6RAR Association have been invited to attend a Commemorative Parade and Reception at the Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera.