One of the most significant battles for Australian forces in the Vietnam War was commemorated at Ingleburn RSL Club today.
A service to remember the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Coral-Balmoral drew hundreds of people to the Ingleburn RSL Sub-Branch Memorial Garden this morning.
Proceedings began with a Black Hawk flyover at 11am before the crowd was led into hymns and prayers.
Master of ceremonies Darren Mitchell told guests of the 26 Australian military personnel who gave their lives in the battle, which ran from May 12 – June 6, 1968.
“We pause in silence to reflect on the experience of our soldiers,” he said.
The service was well attended, with dignitaries including former defence minister and current director of the Australian War Memorial Dr Brendan Nelson, representatives of the American and New Zealand consul-generals, local politicians and the widow and daughter of late Campbelltown Vietnam War Victoria Cross recipient Kevin ‘Dasher’ Wheatley.
Ingleburn RSL Sub-Branch president, and vice-president of RSL NSW, Ray James said the commemoration – the seventh such event held at Ingleburn RSL – was all about paying tribute to the people who sacrificed so much to maintain Australia’s way of life.
“The mates we’ve lost will be forever in our memories,” he said.
Dr Nelson was the next to speak, and his words caused many of the gathered veterans to tear up.
Dr Nelson recounted in great detail the scope of the Battle of Coral-Balmoral, and the incredible onslaught the Aussie troops faced in Vietnam, especially on the first night.
He said the commemoration was a representation of the broader Australian view on Vietnam veterans.
“From where I stand and where we sit here today, this is the face of our country,” he said.
“When young Australians came back from Vietnam, with deep wounds and great hurt, they suffered and many were not embraced when they came home.
“Australia has moved from a period of easy indifference for those who served in Vietnam to a great sense of pride.
“We say now, that what you did in Vietnam was just as valued by our nation as those young Australians who served at Gallipoli and in Kokoda and fought in the dusty terrain of Afghanistan.”
Dr Nelson spoke of the personal stories of many men who fought on the ground in Vietnam, and how they suffered with great post traumatic stress and struggled to return to normal life back in Australia.
He said that the laying of wreaths and the gathering for services was only part of how we honoured the sacrifices of our brave men and women.
“You will best honour them with the way you choose to live your life as Australians,” he said.
The commemoration finished with a performance by the lone piper and the sounding of The Last Post by the bugler.
Representatives of various organisation laid wreaths at the foot of the cenotaph.
Lest we forget.