“Australia let you down. You didn’t fail us – we failed you. You didn’t dishonour us – we dishonoured you.”
Casey MP Tony Smith didn’t hold back in his speech to the annual Yarra Valley and Outer Eastern Melbourne Vietnam Veterans Day Service, held in Croydon on Sunday 11 August.
“Today is a day to applaud you and thank you for your service,” he said.
“Today is a day to thank your families and today is a day for us to reflect and to recommit ourselves as a nation; that never again will we let down or abandon those who served our nation.”
OEMVVAA president Aff Binnoore said the march rotated through the Yarra Valley.
“Over 15 years ago a small number of veterans in the Yarra Valley saw the need to bring together their fellow Vietnam veterans as they saw that many were suffering from various issues attributed to their service,” he said.
Mr Smith said the service was held on or around Long Tan Day every year.
“The Battle of Long Tan was an epic battle that epitomised the spirit, courage and valour, and integrity of those who served in Vietnam in every battle,” he said.
“But we cannot stand here in good conscience half a century on and speak of how our Vietnam Veterans served us, without speaking of how we served them on their return.
“The entire Australian community let down our Vietnam veterans.
“You fully expected to face bullets on the battlefield and in the rubber plantations, but you rightly didn’t expect the verbal bullets fired at you by many of your fellow citizens on your return.
“Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War was controversial.
“I make no argument that those who strongly opposed the war didn’t have a right to do so.
“But their quarrel was with the government of the day – not those who served at their government’s direction.”