True heroes praised on Vietnam Veterans Day
THEY were heroes, and they were treated badly when they returned to Australia after putting their lives on the line.
That was the resounding message from community leaders and veterans during Vietnam Veterans Day commemorations at Anzac Park on Monday morning.
A moving speech by Gladstone RSL president Russell Tidd summed up the heroism of Australia's soldiers in Vietnam.
In his opening address he said that this current day, Monday, was a beautiful day.
"We're breathing and there's no buggers chucking rockets or bullets at us," he said.
"Unlike 48 years ago, to the day, where a company of our people in Vietnam ended up running into a
battalion of the enemy (Battle of Long Tan).
"And conditions weren't exactly like what we're talking about here. They ended up in mud, slush, fog and smoke, with trees knocked over and helicopters blindly coming in dropping ammunition, to keep our people alive.
"We lost 16 that day, the enemy lost 214 or so.
"It goes on further than that; we lost 26 people at the Battle of Coral-Balmora over a period of time.
"Overall, there were more than 500 we lost in Vietnam.
"The numbers are smaller compared to the Second World War and I won't even talk about the First World War.
"But I come back to today and I say, it is a good day.
"Remember the ones that died in action, remember those who have since passed away, because we're only - well - remember the song I Was Only Nineteen?
"Add 48 years on top of 19, we're all getting bloody old," he said.
State member for Gladstone Liz Cunningham also spoke about the Battle of Long Tan.
She said the homecoming the soldiers received should never have happened. It was a disgrace.
"The cost of war is not just on the battlefield. It is also about coping with the stress and the memories," she said.
Gladstone region Mayor Cr Gail Sellers and Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd also paid tribute to the veterans.