Hundreds of families lined Macquarie Road in Springwood on Sunday to cheer marchers on Vietnam Veterans and Associated Forces Memorial Day as they made their way to a remembrance service at Springwood War Memorial.
The annual event in Springwood is held to honour veterans who served in all post-World War II theatres of war, peacekeeping and special operations areas and to remember service personnel and civilians who lost their lives in war and their families that are left behind.
Wreaths were laid by school children, local politicians and emergency services personnel, veterans and members of the public, a minute’s silence was observed and some members of the crowd were moved to tears by beautiful singing by the Winmalee High School Choir.
Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Colin Aiken OAM said “we give thanks today to their (Diggers’) example, but we are also reminded of the terrible cost of war — a cost that remains long after the sound of battle has died away.”
Guest of Honour, Vietnam veteran and author Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Gary McKay MC, said “by the end of that day (the Battle of Long Tan on August 18, 1966), Delta Company lost 18 killed and 24 wounded in action and the Vietnamese left 245 men on the battlefield for the Australians to bury.
“The South Vietnamese military lost 224,000 killed in action and 603,000 wounded,” he said.
“The US sent 2.7 million people to the war, 58,148 were killed, 304,000 were wounded and over 1,800 were missing in action.
“The North Vietnamese, it’s been estimated, had about 1.1 million killed with over 600,000 wounded.
“About 900,000 civilians were killed in North Vietnam and 415,000 civilians in South Vietnam.
“And as we know by early 1975 there were millions of refugees.
“By 1994, some 140,000 Vietnamese had settled in Australia and it’s great to see some of those people here today.”
This year’s ceremony patron, Nerolie McDonald, said she was humbled to be in a position this year to honour the Vietnam Veterans she admires so much in an official role.
“Those Vietnam Veterans, whose indelible spirit allowed them to perform fiercely in battle and endure social oppression when they returned to Australia,” she said.
“Because of you, I and the current generation of the military, have no longer had to face this opposition.”