RSL to stage Vietnam vets day

RSL to stage Vietnam vets day

OCEAN Grove and Barwon Heads RSL are staging a Vietnam Veterans Day as part of an initiative to encourage more members from the 19 and a half year IndoChina War.
Australia was involved in the conflict between 1962 and 1975. A total of 521 Australian servicemen died as a result of the war and over 3000 were wounded.
The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of the First World War. Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or jailed, while soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home.
Even RSL clubs were initially resistant to accepting those returning from the conflict. Vietnam Veterans formed their own association at the end of the war because of a lot of them were dissatisfied with what they thought was the support given to them by the RSL.
However, views within the membership have shifted, with the ex-service organisation now welcoming the returnees, most of whom are well into their 60s.
In recognition of how times have changed, the current Ocean Grove Barwon Heads RSL president Graham Fisher is a Vietnam veteran, as is the secretary David Gilroy and previous president Ron Johnson.
Other Ocean Grove Barwon Heads RSL members include Kerrin Black who served in the Royal Australian Navy and Bernie McCartney, a draftee in the Army. Being drafted into the service meant he had no choice but to go to war.
Now 66, Bernie said the RSL has proven a good way to get to know others who had served and experienced some of what he had.
“You get to meeting all sorts of people that served. I served at the same base as David Gilroy but I didn’t know him until I got back here. He was an officer and I was a regular.”
He said it was a good time for Vietnam Veterans to ‘step up to plate’ to help out or take over from the older members.
Kerrin, who served 216 days on HMAS Derwent and HMAS Perth, said he recommended the RSL as place to meet “like-minded people”.
“We all understand where we have been and what we have done,” he said. “It’s comradeship.”
David Gilroy, who had four tours of duty as a major in the army, urged Vietnam Veterans to get involved, even if it just means coming along and attending the memorial day.
“We need a group of veterans to start taking responsibility from the Second World War fellas. They are diminishing in the ranks,” he said.
The Vietnam Veterans Day will take place at the Ocean Grove Cenotaph at Ocean Grove Park from 4pm on August 18. This coincides with what used to be called Long Tan Day in recognition of the battle of Long Tan in 1966. On that day, 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against over 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan. Although they prevailed, 18 Australians lost their lives and 24 were wounded.

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