Tribute to Vietnam vets

ONCE scorned by many of their countrymen, those who served in the Vietnam War were finally honoured when Australia paused to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the nation’s involvement in the conflict.

Commemorative services were held around the country including in Ipswich which the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese significantly chose to attend.

Upon returning home, veterans experienced hostility from the community over their involvement in an unpopular conflict, including being spat on and having paint thrown on them during parades.

Mr Albanese used his speech at the Ipswich Memorial Service to apologise to Vietnam Veterans for the way they were treated and paid tribute to their sacrifices.

“Their experiences during and after the war are a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by those who have served our country and the debt of gratitude we owe each and every one of our veterans,” he said.

“It is important as Australians we know the stories of service in Vietnam and what our veterans faced when returned home.”

“Let us say to every one of our Vietnam veterans, today and every day, we honour you, we thank you and we are sorry that as a nation it took us so long for us as a nation to do so.”

He said the nation had matured enough to embrace the truth that “we can disagree with a war without that diminishing the respect we feel for every man and woman who puts on our uniform and serves in our name”.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, together with defence spokesman Andrew Hastie and veterans’ affairs spokesman Barnaby Joyce, said the war was a polarising conflict.

“At the time, public opinion often failed to draw a distinction between the politics of war and the people who fought in it,” they said in a joint statement.

“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 deeds.”

About 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam, with more than 3000 wounded and 523 killed. Some 15,000 were conscripted under the National Service Scheme.

It is estimated more than 35,000 Australian Vietnam veterans are still living, with most aged 70 or older.

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