Commemorating 50 years since the Vietnam War

Events in 2023 commemorating 50 years since Australian forces left Vietnam, and how RSL NSW members are reflecting on the milestone.

At a glance:

  • This year’s commemorations include a Vietnam Veterans’ Day service organised by RSL NSW, and a nationally broadcast service at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.
  • Ken Fayle says the Defence Forces have improved their awareness of veterans’ wellbeing, but there is still work to do.
  • Upon returning home to Australia, Ted Fish faced a difficult reception before being embraced by his local RSL NSW sub-Branch.
  • A recent service in Albury proved memorable for Rowan McArdle, who was warmly received by the local veteran community.

Last month marked 50 years since Governor-General Paul Hasluck announced the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War on 11 January 1973. This year also marks 61 years since the first Australian contingent arrived in the country.

Some Vietnam veterans experienced challenges integrating with the RSL NSW community, with many struggling to be acknowledged after returning from service. A growing appreciation for the service of those veterans eventually brought the Vietnam cohort into the fold of the RSL NSW sub-Branch network.

Here’s how three RSL NSW members are reflecting on the milestone, and some commemorative events occurring throughout the year.

Commemorative events in 2023

Sub-Branches across the state are encouraged to organise services that invite veterans, their families and the community to reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance of Australian armed forces during and after the Vietnam War.

Albury

Commemorations have already begun, as the town of Albury was host to a commemorative march along Dean Street on 11 February. There was a parade, helicopter flyover and music from the Army band as attendees marked the half-century milestone with the entire community.

According to Rowan McArdle, Vice President of Ashfield RSL sub-Branch, who attended the event with fellow Skippy Squadron members Rene Herbert and Barry Carroll, the town warmly embraced veterans from both nearby and further afield.

“After the service, I walked into the pub as a complete stranger in a country town,” he said. “There were four other veterans sitting at the table. I asked if I could sit down and have a beer with them, and straight away it felt like being among friends.”

Sydney

RSL NSW will organise a service held on 18 August, Vietnam Veterans’ Day, at the Martin Place Cenotaph in Sydney’s CBD.

For more information, call RSL NSW on 1300 679 775 or email events@rslnsw.org.au.

Canberra

The Australian Government plans to mark the 50th anniversary with a nationally broadcast event at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.

The service, also held on Vietnam Veterans’ Day, will be organised by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and broadcast nationally on the ABC. According to the DVA, the broadcast will also be made available to other networks on the day.

 

RSL NSW welcomes veterans of any age to join the organisation. Access support services and become part of a like-minded community of peers by becoming a member of RSL NSW.

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