August 18, 2020
“The memories will never fade for those of us who were there” … these words by Kingaroy-Memerambi RSL Sub-Branch president Don Davey at the opening rang true for many in the crowd who gathered in Kingaroy on Tuesday to mark Vietnam Veterans’ Day.
Event organiser and Sub-Branch member Barry Krosch echoed the sentiment a bit later: “Don and I were there exactly 50 years ago. Sometimes I remember it too well …”
August 18 is the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan but the date is now the day when the efforts of all the men and women who served in Vietnam are honoured.
The Kingaroy ceremony was held at the foot of the flagpoles outside the main entrance to the Kingaroy RSL Club.
Catholic priest Fr Chukwudi Chinaka delivered the welcoming prayer and Benediction, urging onlookers to remember all those who had sacrificed themselves for the common good, as well as those who continue to serve today.
St Mary’s Catholic College principal Carmel O’Brien was the guest speaker.
She acknowledged she could only live in freedom today due to the sacrifices of the men and women who had walked the earth before her.
But she also spoke of her memories as a child of the Vietnam War … the violent images on television, the words and conversations of the adults around her.
As a nine-year-old she was haunted by the image of another nine-year-old, Kim, who was photographed fleeing a napalm attack on her village.
“I remember thinking how senseless war is. It not only affects soldiers and their families but innocent people such as this beautiful nine-year-old girl,” she said.
It was only in 1980s that she understood more deeply the talk about conscription that had surrounded her as a child.
The words of Redgum’s “I Was Only 19” still echoed strongly in her head: “Mum and dad and Danny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal …”
For Carmel, it was Kapooka not Puckapunyal where she watched her son wear his slouch hat and greens after completing his basic training.
“He is now with the 23rd Platoon based at Enoggera. We are so proud of him,” she said.
Adrian Turner, who served in Iraq in 2007, delivered the vote of thanks.
“My family deployed two men to Vietnam,” he said. “My grandfather and uncle. They are the reason why I joined the military and served 11 years.
“You Vietnam veterans are not forgotten and won’t be by my generation. You are the reason why we serve.”
Other Vietnam Veterans’ Day ceremonies were held in Cherbourg and in Blackbutt.
The Cherbourg commemoration was led by Vietnam veteran and Wakka Wakka Elder Eric Law AM in Memorial Park.
At Blackbutt, wreaths were laid at the foot of the statue by members of the Blackbutt RSL Sub-Branch and South Burnett councillors Scott Henschen and Gavin Jones.