2 May 2023

Wagga's Vietnam veterans to lead 50th anniversary Anzac Day march

| Jarryd Rowley
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man with two defence personnel

Colonel Tim Stone, Wagga Wagga RSL Sub-Branch president Rod Cooper and Wing Commander Gary Simmons are preparing for Anzac Day commemorations on Tuesday. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

Wagga Wagga’s Vietnam veterans will lead this year’s Anzac Day march down Baylis Street to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War in 1973.

The Vietnam War was a polarising and difficult time for many countries, including Australia.

Wagga RSL Sub-Branch president Rod Cooper said that despite the controversial nature of the war, it was important that the sacrifice of those who did serve during that time wasn’t diminished.

“It was a controversial period of time with a changing society. However, it doesn’t diminish the fact that these men and their families were involved in that conflict,” Mr Cooper said.

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“Now, after 50 years here in Wagga, we get to say thank you to those people for their service.”

The march in Wagga is one of many celebratory events to be held across the Riverina, with the Wagga Wagga RSL Sub-Branch also hosting the dawn service at the Victory Memorial Gardens at 5:30 and an Admiration Service following the 10:30 am march, also at the gardens.

“I’d like to think we could have as many people from our community come along and show their support and their respect for those currently serving, the veterans and their families foremost,” Mr Cooper said.

“Planning for this year’s commemorations started in February with a volunteer committee. The actual day starts off here [Victory Memorial Gardens] at 5:30 am with the Legacy dawn service, with a 6:30 service conducted by the RSL Branch out at the war graves on Kooringal Road.

Anzac Day poster

Tuesday’s Anzac Day commemorations will have a special significance relating to the Vietnam War. Image: Wagga Wagga RSL Club.

“The marchers will then assemble at 10 am for a 10:30 start before a formal ceremony, commencing with the wreath-laying followed by the commemorations addresses here at the park.”

This year also marks 108 years since the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps first landed in Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915. Mr Cooper said Anzac Day was an important time for Australians to remember the sacrifices made by those who had served in the defence force since the beginning of World War I.

“They [Anzac soldiers in 1915] fought with distinction, courage and ingenuity, so over the years it has become a part of our fabric as a nation that we commemorate Anzac Day. It celebrates and remembers all those people who have gone before those who are serving now,” he said.

RSL lead commemorations will run alongside several from the Wagga RAAF Base and Kapooka Blamey Barracks, including an RAAF aircraft that will fly past around Wagga on Tuesday morning.

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Commanding Officer of the First Recruit Training Battalion at Kapooka, Colonel Tim Stone, said the the barracks would participate in Anzac Day by laying a wreath at the main ceremony along with the navy and the air force.

“I’d like people to please enjoy the day, but also be respectful,” Colonel Stone said.

“It’s a celebration of the service of those who have come before us, but it’s also a chance to remember the sacrifices that they have made and the sacrifices that their families made as well.”

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