10th Re-Dedication of the Vietnam War Memorial
Phil Bond reports from Canberra
Canberra was busy for the long weekend of October with the Floriade Festival and the Vietnam Veterans re-dedicating their Memorial. The Friday was a bit bleak with predictions of unsettled weather
We decided to visit the Australian War Memorial. On the way I saw that
- A section of Anzac Parade was already closed off
- the Federation Guard were practicing in front of the Vietnam Memorial in preparation for the dedication service to be held
the following day
- a few diggers stood around and enjoyed the CSM putting the
parade through it's practice paces
- others just strolled around and read the quotes on the memorial wall / wiped a few tears away.
I went on and visited the War Memorial
With me was a US Vet Affairs nursing sister from Chicago who has been involved looking after the US vets since 1966. Although she is American, as she walked into the Australian War Memorial she could not hold herself back with tears welling down her cheeks as she remembered the innocent lives that were lost by all in Vietnam, and the many lost after they were returned stateside for treatment.
She had a lot of admiration and respect for the Aussie Digger.
Saturday morning rolled up and I was given a lift into the Dawn Service by Wally Brewer. The morning was bleak and cold after some rain through the night.
At the Vietnam War Memorial some 2-3 thousand Vietnam Veterans ended up gathering. The speeches were short and clear; there was a comparison raised between Galipoli and Vietnam which was good to hear.
During the Dawn Service, two Iroquois cut the morning air which brought a cold chill down many backs as the flew up Anzac Parade.
After the Dawn Service was followed the Gunfire Breakfast and many thanks to all that organised it. The lineups were quite long, but a snag and egg on bread was well worth the wait; you got to meet other diggers while you progressed up the line.
Leading up to the main march I had a quick walk-around and looked at various displays in the area and also the Vietnam section of the War Memorial
- I ran into "Skin" Bingham and "Ned" before the dawn service
- Met Bruce Eklom on the stairs of the AWM; looked like a gipsy ( recently
signed up with the VVMCC and on probation) and who I had not seen since
- and then there was "Doddera" Owen, shaking hands with the unemployed; we discussed his APC prowess.
Probably 5000, in all, assembled for the main march
We assembled behind the only RAEME banner that was present; from 1 Field Squadron Workshops. There I ran into
- Lindsay Morton who I had not seen since 1970; put on a bit of
weight as we all have, and
- Andrew Stilo was last seen in Brisbane 4 years ago and surfaced in Canberra with many other faces.
- a few of the lads who were the RAEME Training Centre in 1968;
shared a few laughs.
So here we all were gathered to commemorate the 10th Re-Dedication to the Vietnam Memorial.
The parade was held up. It was delayed by half an hour or more due to the usual problems politicians have; made the 5000 odd veterans stand around in the cold with no respect for others but only for themselves; they should take a closer look at who votes them in.
The march was over by 1240hrs and I had to run as time was running out for me with a drive to Sydney and flight connections to Brisbane.
Reports have it, that some of the speeches were long winded and empty.
106 was represented by Wally Brewer, Wayne Bingham, Lindsay Morton, Frank Owen, Bruce Eklom, Ned Schafferius, Andrew Stilo, Laurie Finch, many others and Phillip Bond.
Many a sore head was had by many and the show on Sunday was good by all reports