The Geelong community gathered to remember the Vietnam War on Sunday, hosting its own memorial service ahead of larger ceremonies scheduled for across the country this week.
At 10.45, returned servicemen from the region met and marched along the Vietnam Veterans Ave of Honour in North Geelong.
The march concluded at Osborne Park, where they were joined at the Vietnam War Shrine by friends, family, residents and community leaders for a public service that honoured the fallen and paid tribute to all those who served during the conflict.
The Geelong service is held annually, set the weekend prior to National Vietnam Veteran’s Day (formerly known as ‘Long Tan Day’) so that veterans may also participate in this weekend’s Melbourne event.
Graham Christie was key speaker for the day. The former councillor for the Borough of Queenscliffe served as Lance-Corporal for the 104 Signal Squadron and fought in the Battle of Coral-Balmoral.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of Coral-Balmoral battle, where 26 Australians lost their lives and which Christie described as “by far the most vicious (battle) that Australia fought in at Vietnam”.
Local parliamentarians were in attendance, laying wreaths and placing poppies for those who sacrificed their lives between 1962 and 1975.
Member for Geelong Christine Couzens highlighted the need for the service to be held locally for the region. “I think it’s so important for our community to respect what the returned soldiers did and recall their experiences,” she said.
Strong winds of nearly 50km/h battered the crowd of just over 150 veterans and visitors, and threatened to lift the marquee from its stand.
While most in attendance were veterans or seniors, there were also a number of younger community members present to support family or pay their respects.
Les Harris was a national serviceman in the 1st Field Squadron Workshop from 1967/1968. He told Dscribe that his nephews Nick and Alexander attend the service every year, “rain, hail, or shine”.
“We come to support our uncle who was in the war, and we are very interested,” Nick said.
Of the 61,000 Australian military personnel who served in Vietnam, about 40,000 remain.