This year marks the 52nd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan (occurred on 18 August 1966 where 18 Australian soldiers were killed and 25 wounded).
On this Vietnam Veterans’ Day today, we would like to pay tribute to the Australian soldiers and military personnel who sacrificed themselves to protect the freedom of South Vietnam.
My father along with thousands of officers and enlisted personnel from the South naively believed the communist regime when called in for a meeting. Instead, they were taken to concentration camps to do hard labour while being brainwashed day and night. With little food, many died in these camps whereas many others were killed when trying to escape.
What happened to the South Vietnamese people should not have occurred, and it should never happen again. Never in the history of Vietnam when millions were forced to leave their homeland. Even during the great famine period or during the French and Japan occupations, no one had escaped the country and yet when the communist invaded the South in 1975, millions of Vietnamese refugees made dangerous journeys via treacherous sea or perilous tracks to cross the nearest border in order to escape a brutal regime. They did not have a choice, as to stay would mean to be oppressed and/or persecuted by the regime.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Tet offensive in 1968, where thousands of innocent civilians were killed by either being shot in the head or buried alive by the communists during the agreed cease fire period.
Fourty three years on since 1975, Vietnam today is still very much governed by a dictatorial and oppressive regime. Freedom and Democracy are non-existent. Over the past few months, Vietnam has intensified its crackdown with the arrest of numerous dissidents accused of trying to overthrow the regime. Vietnam’s cyber security law recently passed through its Parliament allowing the communist regime to tighten the control of internet usages and to forbid anyone to “distort history” or “negate the nation's revolutionary achievements”.
All of the above justifies the presence of the Australian Defence Force in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Australia’s involvement was just and right.
Regardless of whether the Australian military personnel were conscripted or enlisted to go to Vietnam on their free will, we have a responsibility and duty to remember their sacrifices for as long as we live. Along with the soldiers and personnel from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who served and died in defending our sovereignty, freedom and democracy, they are our heroes. And with gratitude, we will always remember them for many years to come.
Their sacrifice will forever be in our hearts.
Lest we forget.
Mrs. Teresa Thuy Tran