Overdue parade to thank our Vietnam veterans
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.