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Vietnam Veterans’ Day

Liberal Party of Australia

Vietnam Veterans’ Day

This Vietnam Veterans’ Day
will hold a special place in the hearts of our veterans of Vietnam as well as
their families. This year we mark 50 years since Australia formally declared
its cessation of hostilities in Vietnam bringing an end to our longest war of
the 20th century.

Today we
stop to remember the 60,000 Australians who served in Vietnam, the more than
3,000 who were wounded, and the 523 Australians who fell in that foreign land.

In a
controversial and polarising conflict which engendered public protest on the
home front, the service and sacrifice of soldiers was often forgotten. At the
time, public opinion often failed to draw a distinction between the politics of
war and the people who fought in it.

returned home, veterans found that their communities, colleagues, friends and
even families neither understood, nor wanted to understand what they had
experienced. Some were subjected to outright hostility and accused of war
crimes. Others were met with ingratitude or indifference. Many did not receive
adequate medical support to deal with their wounds, seen and unseen. Our
veterans of Vietnam deserved so much better.

In the
decades since the Vietnam War, we have come to acknowledge our nation’s
historical mistreatment of many who returned. And we have come to tell stories
of the endeavours, valour and sacrifice of Australians who served in Vietnam – to see
beyond the politics and rightfully honour the people, their character and their

Today we
remember the Nashos – the 15,000 Australians who served in Vietnam having been
conscripted under the National Service Scheme. Their birth dates were pulled
from that ‘lottery of death’. But they went to war without
complaint. As the Official History notes, contrary to perceptions at the time,
the levels of compliance were high, with less than 1.5 per cent failing to

Today we
also remember the soldiers’ experiences. The gruelling
12-month tours of duty of which a demanding 80 per cent of time was spent in
the operational field. The brutal nature of a predominantly ground war with no
front lines. The constant patrols. The search and destroy missions. The perils
of mines, booby traps, protracted guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run attacks at
night. The unrelenting risk of ambush from an enemy who had infiltrated South Vietnam
and could be present in any village, jungle, mountain, swamp, rice paddy or
rubber plantation. The intense engagements which began without warning and were
typically fought at close quarters of less than 30 metres.

today we remember those major battles like Long Tan, Coral-Balmoral, Binh Ba
and others where, testimony to the Anzac spirit, Australians again proved their

dutiful act of remembrance on Vietnam Veterans’ Day is
a threefold promise. A promise to the past to honour the fallen. A promise to
the present to thank those Vietnam veterans still with us. And a promise to the
future to afford all veterans with the proper treatment and dignity they

As we
look around the world at periods characterised by resurgent authoritarianism,
we can better understand the strategic reasons behind Australia’s
participation in the Vietnam War. Indeed, we can better appreciate the values
for which Australians shouldered arms, shed blood and sacrificed so much.
Australians stood with our friends against those hell-bent on conquest.

is a reminder that the values we hold dear endure beyond any conflict –
provided we never become indifferent to defending them. Our region would look
very different today had Australians not fought to defend those values in

To all
our Vietnam veterans:

In this
important commemorative year, Australians express our profound national
gratitude to you. You did your duty. You showed courage, camaraderie and
commitment in extremis. You are revered equally among all the Anzacs who have
served and sacrificed for our country and helped to defend liberty. You have a
secure place within Australia’s pantheon of war heroes. On
your day, Vietnam Veterans’ Day, we honour you. We thank
you. We commit you to our national memory and to always remember you

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