Fifty-one years ago, New Zealand soldiers supported their Australian counterparts in the Battle of Long Tan, the Anzacs winning a significant victory against the Viet Cong.
August 18 has since become the day for New Zealand’s Vietnam vets to commemorate the fallen from the Vietnam War.
Services will be held at cenotaphs and marae across the country today, after which there will be the chance to catch up with old friends and comrades.
RSA national vice-president Bob “Bukit” Hill says the intense shared experience of operational deployment creates a bond that lasts a lifetime and is difficult to put into words.
“I’m sure this was the same for those who went to the First and Second World Wars, as much as it is for those who served in more recent deployments,” he said.
“It forms friendships that never weaken, created by relying on each other in difficult situations.”
Mr Hill served as a section commander in Vietnam in 1967-68.
He retired from the army in 1985 as regimental sergeant major, and went on to a career in human resources management.
He said the lives of those who returned from Vietnam had covered the full spectrum from success to hardship.
Many went on to make significant contributions at all levels of society, but some struggled “and are still struggling”.
“This is no different for the returned men and women serving today,” he said.
“Life takes all sorts of unexpected turns.”
More than 3000 New Zealand men and women served as military and civilian personnel in Vietnam between 1963 and 1975.
Thirty-two men died while on active service, while two civilians in medical teams also lost their lives. NZN