CHILLY south-west Victorian winter winds on Saturday were a far cry from the humid dangerous conditions that Vietnam War veterans remember.
Fifty years ago, the first Australian troops were deployed to the south-east Asian hotbed of conflict that would last a decade and cost 520 Aussie lives.
Some of the survivors, who endured conscription service and subsequent alienation in their homeland dominated by anti-war politics, gathered around Australia to mark Vietnam Veterans Day.
At Warrnambool’s Cannon Hill memorial about 50 people attended a 6pm service, while earlier in the day Portland and Hamilton also hosted ceremonies.
Port Fairy naval veteran Don Roberts addressed the Portland and Warrnambool events on the Australian army training team first deployed in 1962 which stayed there 10 years, four months and 16 days until the war’s end.
“They were the first unit in and the last out,” he said.
“They lost 33 lives and had 122 wounded and four Victoria Cross recipients.
“In the original contingent there were 1000 applicants interviewed and 30 selected including veterans from the Second World War, Korean War and Malayan emergency.
“Among them were Ted Serong, who has family links in the Port Fairy district, and Bushy Coutts who settled in the region in retirement.” Mr Roberts served with the stategic naval reserve which supported the Seventh Fleet and supply routes.
Wreaths were laid at the Warrnambool memorial by veterans, ex-service women, Legacy, the Naval Association, the 8/7th Royal Victorian Regiment and the RAAF Warrnambool cadet unit.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan also paid tribute to the veterans who were killed or wounded in the war or who had suffered as a result of their service. “Saturday marked the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, best remembered as a classic Australian struggle against a bigger enemy,” he said.