IT was another icy reception for Warrnambool’s Vietnam War veterans who gathered to remember in the cold twilight yesterday.
As they huddled against the wind, rain pelted down, ruining pages of speeches and forcing their ceremony to be cut short.
But a crowd of 50 people still came to the memorial atop Cannon Hill to pay their respects to those who served and those who died for a country which had largely disowned them.
Vietnam Veterans’ Day coincides with the celebrated Battle of Long Tan in 1966 and inevitably stirs bitter memories of how returning Vietnam vets were treated.
Port Fairy naval veteran and secretary of the Warrnambool Veterans Group, Don Roberts, said it had taken a generation for some scars to be healed between veterans and the RSL. “It’s been accepted because a lot of the ex-serviceman from organisations are actually presidents and secretaries, so there’s been a generational change,” Mr Roberts said.
“There’s still a number of veterans who do harbour hard feelings either against the RSL or the public. Even to the stage there could be a clash between sons and family members over it.”
Mr Roberts served for 25 years in the navy, which included serving in the Vietnam War.
He said the war claimed four lives from the south-west, while many more had served in the conflict.
“We’ve got 60-odd on our books (who served) so you’d be looking at 100 across the whole south-west,” Mr Roberts said.