August 19, 2019
The horrors of the Vietnam War took a heavy toll but the hostile reaction many soldiers received when they returned to Australia only made matters worse.
Kingaroy’s Vietnam Veteran’s Day service on Sunday boiled this history down to the personal experience of one man whose life quickly fell apart after his tour of duty was over.
Guest speaker was Mrs Judith Dixon, sister of Lance Corporal Barry Magnussen who was posthumously awarded a Medal of Gallantry in 2016 for his service at the Battle of Long Tan.
Judith told the commemoration service her brother had been a promising athlete in his youth but had suffered a debilitating personal injury not long before he was conscripted.
Despite being unable to complete basic training and spending long periods in hospital, the government ignored requests to relieve him of duty.
Instead, Barry was sent to Vietnam with inadequate training.
He fought at Long Tan – in D Company 6RAR – not long after he arrived.
On return, the psychological injuries Barry sustained during his service – and the lack of support he received from the government, the RSL movement and the general community – saw his life quickly fall apart.
This ultimately led to his divorce, an estrangement from his children and his home town, and a long battle with alcohol that lasted decades until he found some measure of peace later in life.
He died, aged 70, in 2015.
Judith said she was telling Barry’s story because it was typical of the difficult path trodden by many Vietnam veterans.
It was also a path she hoped Defence Force personnel returning from Afghanistan, the Middle East and other recent theatres of conflict never have to face.
About 40 people gathered outside Kingaroy RSL on Sunday morning to pay honour to armed forces personnel who served in Vietnam.
The welcome prayer and benediction were delivered by Pastor Leathan Fitzpatrick from the Seventh-day Adventist Church; The Ode, Last Post and Reveille were played by Kingaroy State High School music teacher Matt Phillips; and the Vote Of Thanks was given by South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell, who was filling in for Vietnam Veteran’s Association president Trevor Sanderson.
Similar services were also held on Sunday – the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan – in other South Burnett towns.