A poignant commemoration by Tully RSL Sub-Branch’s Vietnam Veterans

Some of the many Veterans standing to attention before laying wreaths.

On an overcast and suitably sombre Wednesday morning, August 18, around seventy people gathered at the Memorial Plaque in Rotary Park at Wongaling Beach to attend the Tully RSL Sub-Branch’s commemoration of Vietnam Veterans. Organised by its Secretary, David Ryan, this special day of remembrance was attended by Vietnam Veterans and those of other campaigns, the Widows and families of Veterans, State Member for Hill, Shane Knuth, Councillor Tschui, representatives of the Police and Fire Services, and many friends and members of the public wishing to support those who have and still serve in the Australian Armed Forces.

The date of Vietnam Veterans’ Day coincides with the date of the Battle of Long Tan, which occurred on August 18, 1966. The Vietnam conflict lasted from 1962 – 1972 and saw the loss of life of 521 Australian Armed Forces’ personnel and a further 3,000 wounded out of the 60,000 who served. 

The commemoration commenced with all Veterans present marching behind the Piper to the Memorial Plaque, where David Ryan, Tully RSL Sub-Branch Secretary, gave a moving speech about the difficulties faced by the Vietnam Veterans on their return to Australia. Whilst Veterans of both WWI and WWII had also found it difficult to convey their experiences, many of the Vietnam Veterans had the added burden of feeling alienated from and even booed by the general public, and, initially, estranged from the RSL. Given the very recent events in Afghanistan, Mr Ryan spoke eloquently about the need to ensure that those returning from Afghanistan and the Middle East do not encounter the indifference, or worse, experienced by the Vietnam Veterans. 

“This is the core of our legacy, namely that there is gratitude and reverence for all who have served. My words to all Afghan Veterans are that we are so proud of you! You were asked to do a job and you did it. Thank you so much! It is now your turn to speak up,” declared Mr Ryan. 

The Last Post was played, followed by one minute’s silence, the reading of The Ode, and the Reveille.

Wreaths were laid by Shane Knuth MP, Councillor Tschui, representatives of the various Armed Forces’ branches in the Vietnam war, the Vietnam War Widows, representatives of the Red Cross and the Police and Fire Services, the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Servicemen and Servicewomen’s Association, and the Dunk Island View Caravan Park, amongst others. 

David Ryan thanked the Dunk Island View Caravan Park for providing chairs and the set-up for the commemoration and to all the volunteers who had assisted.

The Flag was raised to full mast and the service concluded with the playing of the Australian National Anthem.

The Tully RSL Sub-Branch then invited those present to partake of drinks and nibbles at the Mission Beach Resort.

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