Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Vietnam Vets are looking older.

I went up the main street of Springwood today and noticed a lot of men with light blue blazers and medals on their chests. There were also some flowers around the war memorial and an American, Australian and New Zealand flag sharing the flagpoles.

It has been 40 years since the battle of Long Tan and a memorial service was held.

A side note, most of the soldiers sent were conscripts who were chosen by a birthday ballot. It would have been interesting from an astrological point of view having a company filled with people with three birthdays only. Imagine if they were all fire signs...."I'm in charge.", "No I'm in charge."....NO, I'm in charge" etc etc.

I remember when I was very young watching the memorial marches on Anzac day and the World War 1 veterans always looked about the age of my great grandfather, the WWII vets lookes about the age of my grandfater and the Vietnam vets looked the same age as my Dad. Well they still look the same age as my dad but the girths have increased, there's a lot more grey and there seemd to be a lot more eyeglasses. Most of them are of grandfather age now. A recent perusal at the last Memorial march, I noticed the WWII vets were looking considerably frailer than i remember, time marches on.

Neverthelss, there were still a few "Flash Harrys" amongst the crowd who were congregating at the Orient Hotel. One guy wearing his leather vest under his blazer (most likely a biker), another in a Hawaiian shirt who left in a hotted up 74 Mustang convertible and one bloke sporting a very cool set of (steel grey) Elvis sideburns.

Mention the words Vietnam and War in the same sentence and controversy seems to follow it around like a bad smell. In Long Tan itself, there were angry words as two different vet factions wanted to hold a service at 3:40pm!

The trouble had been brewing all week between different factions of veterans over who should have access to the site for the prime-time 3.40pm slot. In Vung Tau, 40 kilometres south of Long Tan, where most of the veterans have been staying, there were allegations of a death threat, standover tactics and foul play over issuing of access permits to the site.

Permits are issued through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but handled by two tour companies — Vung Tau Tourist and OSC Tourist. Hence the double booking. Both companies claim they got permission for the 3.40pm service.


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