New Vietnam War film of memories and mates
ON THE eve of Vietnam Veterans' Day on August 18, Toowoomba district veterans have been invited to a new film Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan.
But Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia, Darling Downs Sub-branch president Norman Fry is uncertain how many will go to the cinema.
If they wanted to see it, he believed many of those who had served would probably wait until they could do so privately at home on TV.
However, Mr Fry had spoken on Anzac Day to a highly decorated soldier who had served at Long Tan and who had been involved in ensuring the film's authenticity.
It tells the story of one of the fiercest and most uneven battles fought by Australian soldiers in the Vietnam War, when 108 D Company 6RAR soldiers overcame an estimated 2000 or more North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.
The 1966 battle, in which 18 Australians died and 24 were injured, has become synonymous with the bravery and horrors faced by everyone who served in Vietnam, and has been marked since 1987 as Vietnam Veterans' Day.
Almost 60,000 Australians fought during the country's 10-year involvement in the war from 1964-1973, and more than 500 died.
Thousands more were affected for life, including injuries, ongoing health problems and experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.
Producer Martin Walsh said it was hoped the film, opening on August 8, would "help modernise our Anzac narrative" somewhat as Peter Weir's 1980s film Gallipoli had done, and honour those who had served and been affected by the war.
It is certainly one of the first films on the subject to concentrate on the Australian experience.
"As long as the film is true to events and hasn't been hyped up to make the blokes look like superheroes", Mr Fry perceived there would be a lot of interest across the generations.
The sub-branch has for three years now invited a senior St Ursula's College student to be guest speaker at the Toowoomba Vietnam Veterans' Day memorial ceremony, in a deliberate move to embrace the future.
The school's Rising Daughters group is based on serving the people who have served our country in war, and Mr Fry said "giving them the floor to have their say with a modern perspective is a way to recognise their efforts and stay relevant".
For the first time this year, the sub-branch has also worked with members of Brisbane's Vietnamese Community organisation, who will attend in traditional costume.
About 250-300 people attended last year's ceremony, and Mr Fry hopes that with August 18 this year falling on a Sunday, even more will attend to pay their respects and remember those who fought.
He also encourages veterans of any conflict and their families who may want help or companionship, to go along to the sub-branch's drop-in centre, open Tuesdays and Thursdays 9am-1pm at the Toowoomba United RSL.
Opened in 2017, following the sub-branch's establishment in mid-2016, Mr Fry said the number of people dropping in had confirmed the centre was needed.
"We're like a where-to-go shop," he said, with the centre providing all the information on available services, DVA advice and fellow veterans to "chew the fat".
"We've been able to help a good number of people to resolve their problems and get back on their feet," Mr Fry said.
"Sometimes, it's just good to know there's someone there for you."
He hopes that with ongoing talks between Toowoomba Regional Council and RSL president Roland Thompson, Toowoomba United RSL will next year gain its long-sought refurbishment, including restaurant facilities, as other centres have.
This will make it more attractive to potential members and give the Vietnam veterans group a permanent home.
The Vietnam Veterans' Day ceremony is at 9am on Sunday, August 18 at the Vietnam Memorial in Margaret St, near the Mothers Memorial and everyone is welcome to attend.
For more information, phone Mr Fry at the Vietnam Veterans' sub-branch on 4630 9815 or drop in at the separate entrance located at 549 Ruthven St.