50 years since Vietnam

MAY 24 will mark the 50th anniversary of the announcement by the then Minister for Defence that Australia would send advisors to South Vietnam.

Most of those advisors were warrant officers or officers who had seen conflict in Malaysia and Korea and they set foot in Saigon on July 29, 1962.

No Gympie men were part of 1ARA but the state president of the Vietnam Veterans Association John Smith was among the artillery battalion that supported 1ARA and went over in 1965.

"As far as the Vietnam Veterans Association is concerned, the criteria for ordinary membership is from May 24, 1962," he said of the actual date that marks the anniversary.

"We accept that date as the commencement of Australia's commitment."

He said the Vietnam conflict "seems like yesterday" but was in fact "a lifetime ago."

"I was 24 years in the Army and did two tours of duty of Vietnam."

He joined the Army in 1963 and by the following year he was in Malaysia.

"I came home from that and was in Vietnam in 1965."

There will be activities all over Australia to commemorate the 50th anniversary, however, it will be remembered during annual Vietnam Veterans' Day held on August 18.

Events organiser for the Gympie's Vietnam Veterans Ivan Friske, said Vets were trying to organise a dinner for August 18 and a memorial service the next day.

At Standown Park, Rod and Pam Elkington will host a tribute concert to the wives, widows and partners of Vietnam Veterans with bush poet Gary Fogerty entertaining.

They have also invited the Minister for Defence to plant a Lone Pine.

On August 18, they will start with mini games and prizes at 9am.

Everyone is asked to bring a plate of finger food for lunch.

The march begins at 3pm from the gate at Standown and ends at the flagpole.

This will be followed by a service and then smoko/happy hour and later that night a camp over roast dinner and entertainment.

A march will depart Treasury Casino and end at Anzac Square on August 18 which Mr Smith says will hopefully have a New Zealand contingent and a Vietnamese contingent led by national president Phung Huynh.

"Vietnam has been involved (in the march and service) every year since 1998.

"They are South Vietnamese and a lot of them spent time in re-education camps and a lot were boat people and came here in the early days."

Further afield a 280 kilometre bike ride will be held in Victoria to raise funds the Vietnam Veterans' National Museum on Phillip Island.

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