Thursday, 18 August 2011

STS and Vietnam Veterans

Time to break away from recent media commentary on Clubs and poker machines and talk about a great example of Clubs in the community.

In early 2005 our Club was approached by long term member and Vietnam veteran Peter (Davey) Crockett.  Local veterans were concerned their annual commemoration of the battle of Long Tan held 18 August each year was in jeopardy due to the then host venue's future being in doubt.

While STS was happy to host the ceremony and luncheon, one problem loomed large, where to hold the outdoor ceremony?  In a matter of months an over run garden and corner of the existing car park was transformed into a small but beautiful garden area with a commemorative sign. 

And so it was on 18 August 2005, STS and over 100 veterans and their families commemorated the 39th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan and the official opening of the memorial garden.  Fittingly, Dave Crockett was emcee with Father Hoad presenting a reading and prayer.  The Qld RSL State President Bill Mason opened the memorial and commented “The aim of remembrance is to remember the deeds of the past as a warning for the present and a guide to the future,” said Mr Mason.

Then STS Chairman Douglas White spoke as a WW 11 veteran and one who had read ‘The Battle of Long Tan'.  He closed with his thoughts on the book and said, “It is not a glorification of war but of the spirit of valour in the face of insurmountable odds”.  Local dignitaries laid wreaths such as Federal Member for Richmond Justine Elliot and State Member for Tweed Neville Newell.  The playing of the Last Post and Rouse (by 16yr old local Jacob Lesleighter) and the singing of the National Anthem rounded out a moving ceremony.

Fast forward to 2011 and STS has happily supported this event for seven years with the cash and in kind donations exceeding $30,000.  During this time we've fed over 1,250 veterans and their families and most importantly, gave local (and many visiting) veterans a place to remember fallen comrades and a chance to socialise with those who made it home.  

The original small, simple garden is now a striking, beautiful and fitting venue with benches to sit in quiet reflection, colourful annual flowers and a memorial housing two bronze plaques.  One plaque succinctly and sadly highlights the tragedy of war as it lists the eighteen young men (aged 19-22 yrs) who died at the Battle of Long Tan.  The other plaque repeats the words of then American President Lyndon B Johnson who awarded D Company Sixth Division RAR a Presidential Citation for extraordinary heroism on that fateful day.

Today, around 150 people gathered with the inimitable Davy Crockett as emcee and Brigadier Doug Formby AM (Retired) our guest speaker.  Doug talked of the importance of Vietnam Veterans day remaining a stand alone event and not simply one to be absorbed into existing Anzac or Remembrance Day events.  When you consider the original reception home that was experienced, the latter welcome home parade and now annual commemoration is and remains and important process of healing and recognition for Vietnam Veterans.

Brigadier Formby concluded by saying to the Veterans, 'take this day personally and remember your contribution to your country whilst commemorating those who gave their lives'.  The hauntingly beautiful sounds of the bugle playing the Last Post and Rouse (by John Leslie) was contrasted by the young primary school voices of children from St Joseph's Primary School who brought smiles and applause with their renditions of 'I still call Australia home' and 'Advance Australia Fair'.

This was an important day for Vietnam Veterans whether members or visitors from afar.  No mention of pending political battles.  A day where our Club simply did what many others do, provide for those in their community.  Another day that makes me proud to work in the Club industry and another day where I'm proud to be a part of South Tweed Sports.

In the coming days there will be photos from today's ceremony posted on the Club website and click on the Community link

Gordon Rhodes
STS - Chief Executive Officer

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