Strong crowds turned out in Springwood on Sunday to commemorate the annual Blue Mountains Vietnam Veterans and Associated Forces Memorial Day.
Two Caribou aircraft flew over the town as marchers made their way up Macquarie Road in front of an appreciative crowd at 11.30am before the memorial service started at Springwood Cenotaph.
For the first time in the event’s history a four-legged military star was the guest of honour — Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) Sarbi — although journalist Sandra Lee, who wrote a book about the labrador cross, delivered the memorial address.
Sarbi was “unarguably our most famous Australian dog”, she said, after she was captured by Taliban forces during a fierce battle in Afghanistan in September 2008.
“But the scrappy mutt got home,” said Ms Lee.
“No soldier — even the four legged kind — gets left behind, and after 14 months Sarbi was effectively dog-napped by the elite special forces who never gave up on her.”
Sarbi later joined her military handler and Ms Lee as they laid a wreath at the war memorial. Ms Lee paid tribute to the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Long Tan, the original event honoured by the memorial day.
“The men who fought there and in other jungle battles in Vietnam know first hand what General Douglas Macarthur once described as the ‘mournful mutter of battlefields’,” she said.
“You have heard it in your waking hours and in your sleep, you’ve feared it, you fought it, you survived it and you defeated it. Ultimately you have been forever changed by it.”
Australian Army rock band The Giggin’ Diggers performed in Springwood town square after the service before a large contingent of Vietnam veterans later gathered at Springwood’s Royal Hotel to reminisce and watch a presentation from the Vietnamese community to local vets.
State president of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Mr Vinh, presented members of the Blue Mountains Vietnam Veterans and Associated Forces with artwork and made a speech to those present.
Vietnamese singer Bao performed a touching song she had written before Nicki Gillis took over and had many people up on the dance floor.
Many made the trek to Springwood from across NSW and interstate for the Royal’s annual event, including Stan Towers from Seymour in Victoria who catches the bus up on Friday every year and stays until Monday, and Rocky Thomas from the Central Coast who stayed overnight in the town.
Sapper Rob Muaru with Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) Shuba and Sapper Ryan Bridges with EDD Ruth were also big hits, with many patrons coming up for a chat and a pat.
The Lithgow Highland Band also marched into the pub and performed several pieces to rousing cheers from the substantial crowd.