Address to Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Service, Seymour
18 August 2015
To the president of Vietnam Veterans Association Mitchell subbranch Ross Stewart;
Hank Kreemers, representing the National Servicemens Association;
Mayor of Mitchell Shire Rodney Parker and ward councillors Bill Melbourne, Rhonda Saunderson and Bill Chisholm;
Today we stop to remember the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. The beautiful commemorative wall and the memorial here ensures that the names of the more than 60,000 Australians who served and the 521 who gave their lives in this long and difficult conflict are permanently etched in our history. I pay tribute to the members of the Mitchell sub branch of the VVA, to Cr Bill Melbourne and the Seymour community for their vision through this project. But I believe it is also my responsibility, and the responsibility of my generation, to ensure that it is not just your names, but also the realities of your service and the horrors that you faced during that war and in the years following, that are remembered.
We mark the Vietnam War today, on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan because it was the most costly battle for Australian forces in Vietnam. About 120 soldiers from D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment with artillery and armoured support, fought enemy forces which numbered an estimated 2,500 soldiers. Our soldiers stopped the enemy attacking the nearby Australian Taskforce Base, but it came at a heavy price. Nineteen Australians were killed and another 27 were wounded.
I cannot begin to imagine the physical pain or the emotional toll of the Vietnam War on those who served, their families and their friends - I won't even pretend to. I cannot fathom the trauma that you faced, the long struggle for recognition that followed or the difficult period of readjustment upon your return home. What I will say is that I know the impacts of Vietnam remain with us and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Recognition came to you too late and that is our shame. But today, as we gather here to mark a very tumultuous time in our history - I give my thanks - not just to those who lost their lives but also to the thousands of men and women who returned.