Anzac Day ceremony at Long Tan now uncertain
MORE than 50 years ago, the Reverend Graham Davis OAM was a soldier being deployed to South Vietnam where he took part in the Battle of Long Tan, one of the toughest skirmishes of the Vietnam War.
In the Long Tan rubber plantation on August 18, 1966, Reverend Davis was part of an isolated infantry company of 108 men, cut off and outnumbered by at least 10 to one.
Prevailing against the odds, they withstood massed attacks from the Viet Cong for three hours and suffered the heaviest Australian casualties in a single engagement in Vietnam.
So you'd be forgiven for thinking Rev Davis would be disappointed when the Minister for Veterans' Affairs Dan Tehan said Australians planning to visit the Long Tan Cross site in Vietnam for the 2017 Anzac Day commemorations should be aware the Vietnamese Government has not yet confirmed a ceremony would take place.
Especially after the 50th anniversary plans were cancelled last year at the last minute by the host government.
However, Rev Davis said it's all about respect.
He enlisted in the Australian Defence Force in 1963, returned to Australia and re-trained as a combat medic and eventually became second in command of an army reserve battalion before retiring from defence in 2000 and was ordained as a permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church in 2007.
"The minister has announced there will be a representative at the Long Tan Cross," he said.
"As a former military officer, we commemorate Anzac Day wherever we can, taking into due respect the country where the ceremony is conducted. We are visitors in their land, it is not up to us to be dictatorial in any of our protocols."
He said Long Tan has always been a controversial battle.
"The opinions of both sides are that each won," he said.
"However, we (Vietnam Veterans) have got over that, we respect them and now they are our friends and if the politicians want to argue, they shouldn't drag in veterans of both sides."
Instead of wasting time, energy and money on a long-ago fight, Rev Davis said people should spend more thought on helping the veterans of more recent wars recover, both body and mind.
"We should be putting our energy into looking after these younger soldiers," he said.
RSL City of Lismore Sub-Branch president Cec Harris, agreed.
"I have no animosity for the Vietnamese," he said.
"We were sent there for a political war."
Bangalow RSL Sub-Branch Secretary Col Draper, said more than one third of the members served in the Vietnam War.
According to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, on August 18, 1966, 18 Australians were killed in the Battle of Long Tan, with another 24 wounded, while Australian forces counted 245 dead Vietnamese.