Australia's Vietnam War veterans "blazed the trail" for how our nation understands military service, Springwood's annual memorial day heard on Sunday (August 11).
Brigadier Phillip Bridie was guest of honour at the service, recalling the hostile reception Vietnam War veterans experienced when returning to Australia.
"The trauma of the Vietnam War had ripped the social fabric of our country and those who served not only bore their own wounds but also bore the collective wounds of the nation's trauma," he said.
But Brigadier Bridie said the Australian people "have learnt from this bitter experience", with the 1987 Welcome Home Parade for Vietnam Veterans marking a turning point.
He said his own experience returning home from service in Afghanistan was vastly different. The 2015 homecoming parade for Operation Slipper - Australia's military contribution to the war against terrorism across Afghanistan and the Middle East - was held only months after the operation's close.
"The streets were lined with enthusiastic and supportive Australians of all backgrounds," said Brigadier Bridie. "So I thank our Vietnam veterans, on behalf of all veterans since, for blazing the trail by developing in the Australian people a better understanding of our service."
In a first for the memorial day, an ex-veteran from the South Vietnamese forces also addressed the service.
Cuong Vo, president of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia and NSW, thanked the Australian government, "and the Australian people", for resettling refugees from Vietnam following the war.
A parade of veterans, cadets and students from local schools made its way up Macquarie Road at 11.30am before the service at Springwood cenotaph. An Iroquois helicopter did a flyover during the service.
Brigadier Bridie said conflicts like the Vietnam War and those that followed were experiencing renewed focus following the conclusion of commemorations of the centenary of World War I.
"We now see, as a community, the opportunity to focus our remembrance activities on more contemporary military operations such as the Vietnam War and more recent conflicts. For whilst World War I was horrendous, to the world's shame it was not to be the war to end all wars."
The Blue Mountains Vietnam Veterans and Associated Forces Memorial Day is held in Springwood every August. It is organised by the Blue Mountains Vietnam Veterans and Associated Forces Inc.