On 18 August, we commemorated Vietnam Veterans’ Day on the 57th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1966. On Sunday, I was privileged to be the guest speaker at the service at Flagstaff Hill Vietnam Veteran’s War Memorial. As a teacher and member of Illawarra People for Peace, I spoke about the courage of those who were asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, either through death or through a lifetime of impact, and their legacy, born in us, to continue to work for the goal they sought: Peace and freedom in the world. By the time the Vietnam war had come to an end, almost 60,000 Australians had served during a decade of conflict between 1962 and 1972. Tragically, 523 of them died and 3000 were wounded.
I recounted for those gathered a story that in speaking to one of the returned soldiers who fought in Vietnam, he shared that for a long time he hated the Vietnamese. But that it took him years of getting to know Vietnamese people here in Australia that he came to realise that he didn’t actually hate Vietnamese people. He hated the conflict he had been in; he hated the impact it had on his life and his family and friends. He hated the lost time, the lost lives. But when he came to know the Vietnamese people here, he came to realise that they too wanted freedom and peace; they too wanted education for their children and food on their table. They too wanted to contribute to Australian society in a positive and meaningful way. That they too are people, each with their own story.
This is the key to growing peace. As Pope Francis reminded us, to ‘demilitarize the heart’ against those we don’t know or understand.
The Veterans were also grateful for the service of Year 11 student Patrick Sirianni who played the Last Post and will also support the 100th Anniversary of Legacy later in the year.
Director of Identity