Inverell commemorates Vietnam veterans day

Shivering but stoic, locals stood together in the bitter cold on Friday afternoon to honour Vietnam veterans.

“It means a lot to all diggers,” veteran Ray Laidlaw said. 

“It doesn’t matter whether they’re army, navy or airforce. It’s getting back with old mates together, talking old stories, all that type of thing.” 

Originally from Gilgai, Mr Laidlaw became a machine gunner for the third battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment in 1971.

He said it was great to see how attitudes had changed towards Vietnam veterans, who had no choice over the unpopular war they were in, and had simply done what all good soldiers do – as they were told.

“When we came home and everyone was getting eggs and tomatoes and the likes thrown at them by Australians - that was worse than the Vietnam war. That wiped a lot of Vietnam vets out and was the reason why a lot of them went and hid in the hills. The public didn’t want them, so they went and hid,” he said.

“I’m pleased to see that the Australian public have finally accepted the Vietnam vets for what they did and the fact that it wasn’t their call.”

Kelvin Brown said he was there to support his defense force family.

“(Just) because I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in that conflict doesn’t mean that I don’t grieve with my brothers and sisters,” he said.

“We wear the skin, which is our uniform, and we grieve the loss of our brothers that didn’t come home.”

“Remember this - they died on duty. So therefore, they are still on duty. We have to remember to pause and think of them in that regard.”

Noel Anstee, a Company Sergeant Major who served in the army for 25 years said he was proud of his fellow Vietnam veterans. He said many didn’t choose to serve, but when they arrived, got on with the job.

He said life had changed for the Vietnam veterans, who in the past had kept to themselves due to antagonism from the public.

“Since people have realised that it wasn’t any fault of the boys, they’ve accepted the fact that they were sent there and they’ve started to welcome (us), because they didn’t welcome us home,” he said.

Mr Anstee said the day was also a chance to think of those who’ve served since Vietnam, and those in current conflicts.

“I’m rather concerned about our boys in Afghanistan,” he said.

“They’re up against something worse than what we were up against. We had an enemy we knew. Over there, they’ve got no idea who their enemy is.”