Over­due pa­rade to thank our Viet­nam vet­er­ans

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

Viet­nam vet­er­ans are be­ing in­vited to take part in a ma­jor pa­rade through Welling­ton on May 31.

But or­gan­is­ers say they are slow to come for­ward.

The march will be held on May 31 and is part of the three-day Trib­ute 08 event that will in­clude an of­fi­cial, al­beit late, wel­come home for troops who fought in Viet­nam dur­ing the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Royal New Zealand Ar­tillery As­so­ci­a­tion says only 116 of the 600 sur­viv­ing gun­ners in 161 Bat­tery have so far signed up for the event.

Sec­re­tary Mike Dakin urges vet­er­ans to come for­ward.

Many still have griev­ances about their post­war treat­ment but Mr Dakin says the event will fi­nally for­mally recog­nise the ser­vice of those who fought in Viet­nam.

“We fought to­gether and we should see things out to­gether,” he says.

“What­ever the rights and wrongs of the Viet­nam war all New Zealand troops who were there rep­re­sented our coun­try with courage and hon­our.”

Mr Dakin, one of the early gun­ners to serve in Viet­nam in 1966, says sur­vivors should make sure they take their proper place in New Zealand’s mil­i­tary his­tory with pride.

He says recog­ni­tion is also im­por­tant for the fam­i­lies who have had to deal with the con­se­quences of the war on the well­be­ing of their men­folk.

“Here is an op­por­tu­nity to recog­nise that our gun­ners per­formed to the very high stan­dards the New Zealand ar­tillery set for the last 150 years, that Ki­wis did not fight in vain, and that there is hope for the sur­vivors in get­ting the recog­ni­tion and sup­port they justly de­serve,” Mr Dakin says.

The 161 Bat­tery was New Zealand’s first and long­est-serv­ing mil­i­tary unit in Viet­nam with 821 gun­ners posted there over seven years from June 1965.

Four were killed in ac­tion, one died of wounds, and 177 have died since re­turn­ing.

Other New Zealand forces be­ing rep­re­sented at the pa­rade will in­clude a non-com­bat­ant unit of the Royal New Zealand En­gi­neers, two com­pa­nies of the Royal New Zealand In­fantry Reg­i­ment, and the New Zealand Spe­cial Air Ser­vice.

Thirty-seven New Zealand troops were killed in Viet­nam.

Many of the vet­er­ans have died or suf­fered se­ri­ous med­i­cal con­di­tions since the war from ex­po­sure to the jun­gle de­fo­liant Agent Orange.

Chris Turver, the first New Zealand war correspondent with 161 Bat­tery in 1965, says it’s hard to imag­ine what New Zealand troops had to put up with by fight­ing an un­pop­u­lar war.

“Not only did they have to deal with the dan­gers and un­cer­tain­ties of a war with no front lines in a for­eign coun­try – but they came home to a hos­tile pub­lic and a gov­ern­ment which re­fused to wel­come them home or recog­nise the ef­fects of the war on them,” he says.

For more in­for­ma­tion see www.tribute08.com.

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