RSL branch president decries past treatment of veterans
GAYNDAH'S remaining Vietnam War veterans have gathered together for a small ceremony and barbecue to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day on Sunday.
Gayndah RSL Sub Branch president Boyd Baker took the opportunity to decry past treatment of Australia's Vietnam War veterans.
"They were treated shamefully by a large section of society, from politicians, to journalists, to left-wing unionists, and sections of the public,” Mr Baker said.
"Sadly, for many years even the RSL didn't think they were 'real soldiers'.
"There certainly is a lot of shame surrounding the Vietnam conflict, but none of that shame can be directed toward the performance, courage and commitment of the Australians who were involved in the conflict.”
August 18 was originally known as Long Tan Day, commemorating the men of D Company, 6RAR, who fought in the battle of Long Tan in 1966.
According to the Australian War Memorial, 108 Australian and New Zealand troops fought the battle against more than 2000 enemies in a rubber plantation near the small village of Long Tan.
Eighteen Australians lost their lives and 24 were wounded.
On the battle's third anniversary, in 1969, the men of 6RAR raised a cross at the site of the battle, and from then on, Long Tan Day was celebrated.
Former prime minister Bob Hawke, following a "Welcome Home” parade for Vietnam veterans in Sydney in 1987, decreed Long Tan Day would henceforth be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.
Mr Baker said he hoped the recently released movie Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan "does justice to the bravery of our soldiers in that battle”.
All up, 500 Australian Defence Force personnel died in the conflict between 1962-1972, with 3629 injured as well.
Mr Baker, who performed National Service, said he was "grateful” he was not required to fight, but remembered well the sadness in his unit when news of Australian deaths reached them.