The Gunnedah shire turned out to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day on Friday.
Residents gathered at Gunnedah Cenotaph at 11am for a service, which acknowledged the sacrifices of those who served in the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
In 1962, almost 60,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam. More than 500 Australians died as a result of the war and more than 3000 were wounded.
At Gunnedah’s service, RSL Sub-branch president, Peter Kannengiesser, reflected on the war and the long period of time it took for many service personnel to be recognised for their sacrifices.
“Let’s remember those who should have got [awards], that have now got [awards],” he said.
Father John McHugh from St Joseph's Catholic Church, Gunnedah, also took to the stand to offer a prayer, share some verses from the book of Matthew in the Bible, and reflect on the parallels between service to one’s country and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
“True leadership is found in serving others,” he told the audience.
“Jesus gave us all an outstanding example of this when he was willing to give his ‘as a ransom for many’.”
Father McHugh said the “Anzac spirit” was “defined by overcoming overwhelming odds and atrocious conditions”.
“It is turning the impossible into the possible. It is about the ability to push past one’s perceived limitations and to achieve greater outcomes,” he said.
“It is about doggedness, resilience, tenacity and persistence… the ability to never give up, and self-belief – to hang in there when all seems lost.
“These young Australian service men and women serving in Vietnam were willing to sacrifice their own lives for a complete stranger.”
Wreaths were laid by a number of organisations including the RSL Ladies Auxiliary and Gunnedah Shire Council. Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson also laid a wreath.
St Mary’s College student and Gunnedah Shire Band member, Annerley Fitzsimmons played The Last Post and the Reveille.
Gunnedah Historical Society is on the look-out for service photos of any Vietnam veterans who have lived in Gunnedah at any time. The Vietnam display at the Gunnedah Water Tower Museum is a work in progress and the society would also welcome any contributions of other photos.
The museum is open from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays and on Monday morning when volunteers are working.
On August 18, 1966, D Company sixth battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) fought the elements of the fifth Viet Cong division as well as attachments of other North Vietnamese units. In this most significant battle, the battle of Long Tan, the sixth RAR Contingent was 108 strong while the North Vietnamese numbered in excess of 2000 and probably closer to 2500.
On the afternoon of the 18th, D Company sixth RAR began a sweep of the area east of Nui Dat (which had sustained a major bombardment the day before) when they were attached by a major North Vietnamese unit. An extensive and brutal battle ensued and it was not until daylight that following morning that the extent of the battle, and the subsequent victory, became apparent.
Heavy casualties were inflicted. D Company had 18 killed and 24 wounded. The North Vietnamese had 245 killed and an unknown number of wounded (there was later evidence to suggest that the total enemy losses may have reached 500).
On May 30, 1968, D Company was awarded the United States Presidential Unit Citation from then president Lyndon B Johnson.
More than 59,000 Australians served in Vietnam, and more than 500 service people were lost in this bloody, bitter war.
– Peter Kannengiesser