Vietnam Veterans remember Long Tan at Karuah Memorial Service

Karuah Memorial Service, Photo Jack Drake
Karuah Memorial Service, Photo Jack Drake

THEY gathered at Karuah under a bright blue sky and a backdrop of slow moving flags, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam Battle of Long Tan.

It was a morning which made all the sacrifices of a conflict long past, well worth the fight.

With local school children looking on, a new commemorative wall was dedicated by Minister Gary Parker and members of the Karuah RSL Sub Branch.

Wreaths were also laid by the Tea Gardens RSL Sub Branch, Matraville RSL Sub Branch, Karuah RSL and local Primary School.

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72 year old veteran Alek Miller recalled his years spent as a young corporal in the Royal Australian Airforce,  serving with the 36th and 37th Squadron “The Hercs,” as he called them.

He told the News Of The Area how he made 36 trips from Australia to Vietnam carrying supplies and logistics from Richmond and Darwin.

“Unfortunately, we had 8 coffins on board one return trip,” Alek said.

He also lost a brother in the conflict.

But like so many veterans Alek Miller stressed, “What happened in Vietnam, stayed in Vietnam.”

He went on to serve his country in the RAAF for another 25 years.

The Battle of Long tan, on August 18, 1966, claimed the lives of 18 Australian servicemen and left 24 others wounded.

It was the most costly single battle of the Vietnam conflict.

The Karuah Memorial Wall of Remembrance allows room for the names of veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and peacekeepers from East Timor.

The wall itself is dedicated to the memory of Snowy (Bill) Williams 2/9th Cavalry Commando Regiment 25th April, 2016.

Unfortunately, for the 1,000  veterans who travelled to Vietnam for last week’s commemoration there were unexpected problems.

The Vietnamese Government cancelled the main memorial event at the last minute.

In the end, only a few people were allowed to visit the “Long Tan Cross” and then after waiting for several hours, their time to pay tribute was cut to a minute.

The Long Tan anniversary is a contentious event in Vietnam, with visitors to the “Cross Memorial,” not allowed to wear medals or uniforms.

Filming, speeches and music are also banned.

In Canberra, Governor General Peter Cosgrove led the commemoration at the Australian Warm Memorial, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten paying their respects.

 

By Margie TIERNEY

 

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