The prejudice, ignorance, loneliness and loss that Vietnam War servicemen and women have been forced to face for the past five decades was addressed by Medowie RSL Sub-Branch president Ian Harding to a crowd of about 60 on Sunday.
Speaking to those gathered in Lions Park for the sub-branch's annual Vietnam Veterans Day service, Mr Harding posed a series of "can you image" scenarios to those in attendance, which only served to highlight the hardships veterans of the 1962-1975 war went through and continue to battle with to this day.
"Can you imagine going on leave and having a beer served by someone who was probably a spy?" Mr Harding asked the crowd.
"Can you imagine returning to Australia and being called a murder after serving Australia in Vietnam as a solider or sailor?
"Can you imagine, on return, being told 'you didn't serve in a real war'?
"Can you imagine being told that agent orange not harmful at all?"
"Today we should remember the motto of the Vietnam Veterans Association: Honour the dead, but fight like hell for the living.
"We will fight to ensure you're not just remembered but that you're properly respected and supported."
We can’t change the past but we can remember and hopefully make sure no one else endures the same hardships. The #Medowie#VietnamVeteransDay service was poignant as ever. 60 people on a Sunday for a VVD service is pretty good, says the towns RSL sub branch pres #PortStephenspic.twitter.com/ne2CO3R0cH— Ellie-Marie Watts (@E1MaWa) August 18, 2019
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Port Stephens naval association president and Medowie RSL Sub-Branch member Bob Parish also addressed the crowd on Sunday, August 18, recalling the origins or the Vietnam War. He later led the crowd in prayer.
Port Stephens central ward councillor Chris Doohan also addressed those gathered for the service.
"We gather to pay tribute to the brave men and women who fought in the battle of Long Tan 53 years ago today. It's hard to put a date on what day should be celebrated for Vietnam veterans Day but it was chosen to be the battle of Long Tan," Cr Doohan said.
"59,000 Australian took up arms to fight in our longest military engagement in the 20th century. Today we remember the 501 soldiers who never returned home.
"We remember the bravery displayed by all those who fought. We remember he physical and mental strength they possesses and we remember the courage and mateship they showed to one another.
"We remember their stories of heroism, of overcoming the odds. And we remember the emptiness and the sadness we felt with the price of war.
"We also remember the silent pain of those who did return home without welcome Their struggle to readjust to life after war and the toll that it took upon them and their families.
"All of this we remember because by remembering, we keep that memory alive. That's why it's wonderful to see so many people here today determined not to forget the lessons of the past and most importantly, those who served our country."
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Cr Doohan, a serviceman himself, also paid tribute to the men and women currently serving in the armed forces for Australia.
Mr Harding was the first to lay a wreath on Sunday followed by Mr Parish, Tilligerry RSL Sub-Branch president Paul Carleton, Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, Medowie Public School students and Cr Doohan, as well as representatives from such services as Legacy and CWA.
Cr Doohan placed a book at the Lions Park war memorial, which Mr Harding later presented to the four Medowie Public School students who attended Sunday's service.
Mr Harding said he was happy to see such a strong turnout to the service, especially on a Sunday.
Elsewhere in Port Stephens, Vietnam Veterans Day services were held in Nelson Bay and Karuah.