Veterans' group's patron says sorry to Pirie ex-servicemen

They were the sweetest words of the morning: "We are sorry."

Patron of the Returned Services League Ken Madigan offered an apology to Vietnam War veterans for the way they were treated by the public on their return from duty in the 1960s and 1970s.

Back then, some people spat on soldiers in uniform amid controversy about the war, but Mr Madigan had nothing but praise for the ex-service personnel.

He spoke at the Vietnam Veterans' Day ceremony at the South East Asian War Memorial, in Memorial Drive, just after 11am on Sunday.

Mr Madigan paid tribute to the outnumbered Australian contingent who fought and won the Battle of Long Tan on the same day in 1966.

Returned servicemen including Ken Bessen, who was especially mentioned by Mr Madigan, and Keith Masson, Bob Boundy, Jeff Greenough, Dean Ryder, "Snow" Chesson, Phil Bickley, V.B. Barry, Malcolm Bond, Neville Sampson, Frank Gordon and wheelchair-bound Don Young listened as the guest speaker describe the "tragic and costly war" fought in "dense jungle, paddy fields and rubber plantations".

"I extend a sincere apology to the men who were not accorded the respect they deserved, or the honour they had earned, on their return home," he said.

Wreaths were laid and the Ode of Remembrance was recited with the solemn and forlorn sound of the bugle filling the air.

The 414 Army Cadets guarded the ceremony. They included Toby Stringer, 17, of John Pirie Secondary School, who wants to join the Australian Army.