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Wednesday, 20 Apr 2016

Vietnam Veterans honored as Legacy continues war on invisible PTSD enemy

On patrol Seymour Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk.
On patrol Seymour Vietnam
Veterans Commemorative Walk.

In 1987 the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke designated 18 August as Australia’s official Vietnam Veterans’ Day. The date commemorates the Battle of Long Tan.

On the third anniversary of Long Tan, 18 August 1969, a cross was raised on the site of the battle by the men of 6 RAR. Veterans from the battle gathered at the cross to commemorate the fallen, and the day was commemorated by them as Long Tan Day from then on.

Over time, all Vietnam veterans adopted the day as one to commemorate those who served and died in Vietnam. In 1987, following the very successful Welcome Home parade for Vietnam veterans in Sydney, Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced that Long Tan Day would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day. Since then, it has been commemorated every year as the day on which the service of all those men and women who served in Vietnam is remembered.

Heavily outnumbered but supported by strong artillery fire, 108 young men from D company 6 RAR held off a regimental assault in a defining feat of Australian Arms.

Helicopter Vietnam memorial Seymour
Helicopter Vietnam memorial Seymour

The Battle of Long Tan on August 18, 1966 was fought in monsoon rain in a rubber plantation near Long Tan in Phouc Tuy Province South Vietnam. The action was fought between Australian forces and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units after 108 men from D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) clashed with a force of 1,500 to 2,500 from the Viet Cong 275th Regiment, possibly reinforced by at least one North Vietnamese battalion, and D445 Provincial Mobile Battalion.

The Australian War Memorial says there were 18 Australians killed - 17 from D Company and one from the 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron - and 25 wounded. The Viet Cong insurgents left 245 dead and many more wounded.

Seymour's Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk is a unique national tribute. It is in High Street at the junction of Emily Street and Tallarook Street, Seymour, Victoria.

The Mitchell sub branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association is the source of the commemorative walk project born in 2005 in collaboration with the Mitchell Shire Council.

Vietnam was part of GSA's youth. Your marble dropped and you were in; or it didn't. It was a volatile time. It brought truckloads of pain. Some of that lingers still.

The Commemorative Walk is a positive force. This is not a traditional memorial. It is not intended to be. It belongs equally to the Vietnam Veterans and also to those who opposed Australia's involvement.

Vietnam War Memorial Wall Seymour.
Vietnam War Memorial Wall Seymour.

The Walk has been created using symbolic elements of Vietnam and 106 DigiGlass panels are inscribed with 60,000 names of every serviceman and servicewoman who served in the conflict. Eleven tracker dogs are included too with an image of Justin and his Digger mate handling the hot climate.

Seymour has a proud military history going back to the Boer War and the major training facility Puckapunyal is 12km west of town.

Vietnam is now our second longest war. The Australian War Memorial says Australia's military involvement in the Vietnam War is second only to the nations commitment to Afghanistan.

Almost 60,000 Australians, including ground troops and Air Force and Navy personnel, served in Vietnam; 521 died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded.

The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of the First World War.

Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or jailed, while soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home.

The arrival of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) in South Vietnam, also known as "the Team" during July and August 1962 was the beginning of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Australia's participation in the war was formally declared at an end when the Governor-General issued a proclamation on 11 January 1973. The only combat troops remaining in Vietnam were a platoon guarding the Australian embassy in Saigon, which was withdrawn in June 1973.

Centurion tank Vietnam Memorial Seymour.
Centurion tank Vietnam Memorial Seymour.

The Australian commitment consisted predominantly of army personnel, but significant numbers of Air Force and Navy personnel and some civilians also took part, The Australian War Memorial says.

The year 1968 began with a major offensive by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, launched during the Vietnamese lunar New Year holiday period, known as "Tet".

Not only the timing but the scale of the offensive came as a complete surprise, taking in cities, towns, and military installations throughout South Vietnam.

By late 1970 Australia had also begun to wind down its military effort in Vietnam. The 8th Battalion departed in November (and was not replaced), but, to make up for the decrease in troop numbers, the Team's strength was increased and its efforts became concentrated in Phuoc Tuy province.

The withdrawal of troops and all air units continued throughout 1971 – the last battalion left Nui Dat on 7 November, while a handful of advisers belonging to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) remained in Vietnam the following year, The Australian War Memorial says.

In December 1972 they became the last Australian troops to come home, with their unit having seen continuous service in South Vietnam for ten and a half years.


The Australian War Memorial reports that total Australian service causalities in the Vietnam War, 1962 - 72 were:

Total Australian service casualties: Died 500. Wounded, injured, ill 3,129. The total of 500 deaths comprises 426 battle casualties and 74 non-battle casualties.

Australian Army battle casualties were: Killed in action, Regular Army 172, National Servicemen 143, Citizens Military Forces 1 total 316. Killed accidentally total 25. Died of wounds 68. Died of injury illness 3. Missing presumed dead 1. Drowned 1.

Wounded in Action: Regular Army 1,140, National Servicemen 880, Citizens Military Forces 6, total 2,026. Wounded accidentally, total 180.Injured, ill in battle total 142.

Totals by category: 414 killed in battle, 2,348 wounded in battle.

Editors note: Source: Appendix F, "Statistics", Ian McNeil and Ashley Ekins, On the offensive: the Australian Army in the Vietnam War 1967–1968 (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2003)

Editors Note: Madeline Healy reports in The Courier Mail that Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a level of emotional distress that many people don’t understand because it’s invisible.

She says Post-traumatic stress disorder affects 800,000 Australians at any given time, making it the second-most common mental health disorder. The Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health estimates that up to 10 per cent of people will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. There has been a four-fold increase in PTSD cases since Australian troops first went to war in Afghanistan in 2001.

She says Karen-Ann Clarke’s late husband, Vietnam Veteran Warren Clarke, lost his ability to feel good in life through PTSD.

“In Australia we are great at training our young men and women how to be soldiers but we are hopeless at training them how to put themselves back together again. Once seen can never be unseen,” Karen-Ann Clarke says.

“We need to increase awareness but we also need to focus on increasing education. Stigma comes from the fear of the unknown and a lack of education. PTSD is something no one likes to talk about.”

To help Legacy continue caring for families, donate at, find out about volunteering as a Legatee by calling 1800 LEGACY (534229) or follow at

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory

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