By Simon Ginns
Fifty-one years on and in conditions very different to the steamy tropical heat of a rubber plantation, Rutherglen paused on Friday to remember the Battle of Long Tan and those who served in the Vietnam War.
Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated on August 18 every year.
The day was originally known as Long Tan Day, chosen to commemorate the men of D Company, 6RAR who fought in the battle of Long Tan in 1966.
Corowa RSL Sub Branch President Martin Magill joined Rutherglen President Neville Bainbridge, veterans, their families and friends at a memorial service in tribute to the 58,000 Australians who saw service in more than a decade of conflict.
In his address, Mr Bainbridge reflected on the events of half a century ago.
“It is fitting that we honour Vietnam veterans with this special day when we recognise all those who served, but especially the 521 men who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Vietnam War.”
“My hope is that gatherings like ours today help in the healing and reconciliation process for veterans who fought in Vietnam and, indeed, veterans of all conflicts in which our troops have been called upon to take part.”
Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War began with a small commitment of 30 military advisors in 1962 and increased over the following decade to a peak of 7672.
For many, Long Tan has become the recognised symbol of the Vietnam War experience.
It has become Vietnam’s Gallipoli - Australia’s most celebrated engagement of the conflict.
Doug Ramsay severed with 7RAR in 1968-69.
He described the origin of the commemoration.
“Long Tan day follows a tradition started in the First World War. Units that fought significant battles, when they came back to Australia made that (anniversary) their annual pilgrimage day. The original day was Lone Pine day for 7 Battalion, then for other units Capyong Day (Korean war) and Long Tan day followed on from that.”
Over time, all Australian Vietnam veterans adopted Long Tan day as one to commemorate those who served and died in Vietnam.
In 1987, following the welcome home parade for Vietnam veterans in Sydney, Prime Minister
Bob Hawke announced that Long Tan Day would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.
For fellow Veteran Lloyd Patterson, the day has a boarder meaning.
“I believe it should be called Veterans Day,” he said.
“The date that it falls on is Long Tan, so Long Tan will always be remembered no matter what the day is called, and by calling it Veterans Day it encompasses more than just Vietnam veterans.”
Ray Tyrrell served with a Signals Unit in 1968-69.
For him, the purpose of the day is clear.
“At the moment, it is called Vietnam Veterans Day,” he said.
“I don’t mind celebrating that to remember a few that were lost in my unit and the ones that have all passed on since.”
Memories of the past are not the only thing on the mind of veterans.
Pat Crough served with Doug Ramsay and 7RAR in 1968-69 and has an eye on recent and current events.
“We think a lot about the poor buggers who suffered and died over in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places like that. It is not just self-centred,” he said.