Sense of urgency at Vietnam Veterans' Day ceremony

VETERAN: Fr Francis Montero, left, Vietnam veteran Ken Bessen, Geoff Brock and Cr Debbie Devlin.

VETERAN: Fr Francis Montero, left, Vietnam veteran Ken Bessen, Geoff Brock and Cr Debbie Devlin.

LEST WE FORGET: Returned Services League sub-branch president Malcolm Bond recites the Ode of Remembrance.

LEST WE FORGET: Returned Services League sub-branch president Malcolm Bond recites the Ode of Remembrance.

It was almost a clarion call to honour the Aussies who died in Vietnam.

As I walked along Memorial Drive towards the South-East Asia War Memorial, a car alarm was blaring with incessant, intermittent and loud honks of the horn.

PRAYER: Father Francis Montero prays for our service men and women, flanked by an Army Cadet, at the memorial.

PRAYER: Father Francis Montero prays for our service men and women, flanked by an Army Cadet, at the memorial.

It added a sense of urgency to the ceremony that was about to unfold at the memorial beneath tall trees farther along the street.

Port Pirie’s Vietnam veterans, their families and friends were observing the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. 

Eighteen Australian soldiers were killed by Viet Cong military forces in this battle in a rubber plantation in Phuoc Tuy Province in 1966.

In fighting off overwhelming odds, the troopers achieved our finest moment in the Vietnam War.

It may have been the enormity of the moment, but the sound of the car horn ceased to be noticeable as Returned Services League sub-branch president Malcolm Bond spoke.

“For many, war is not over. They have nightmares brought on by simple events,” he said of his fellow veterans.

“As Vietnam veterans, we need to support the young servicemen who serve and continue to serve Australia.

“I am sure we all believe this is the way to go. You respect the dead and you fight hard for the living.”

Catholic priest Father Francis Montero also spoke to the gathering of about 50 people standing amid the swirls of a chilly breeze. He asked God to bless the service men and women.

“You have inspired so many of our best and brightest to volunteer … to serve their chosen branch of the military,” he said.

”Their service in Vietnam enables us to walk as free men and women in this land.

“May they gain earthly and heavenly blessing in their unselfish serving of their country … as we build a better world.”

Several Army cadets, with their uniform sleeves rolled up, defied the cold to stand guard at the service.

Wreaths were laid by Cr Debbie Devlin for the Port Pirie Regional Council, Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock and Al Webster for the RSL.

Vietnam veteran Ken Bessen thanked Cr Devlin and Mr Brock, his medals sparkling in the sun. Asked what the event meant to him, Mr Bessen paused and said: “Remembering the blokes who never came home.”

Thank God, that honking car horn had stopped.

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