This year, the Nambucca Valley Vietnam Veterans will gather at the Nambucca Heads Cenotaph On Wednesday, August 18, to commemorate and reflect on a war that Australia entered in 1962 and withdrew from eleven years later.
Almost 60,000 Australians saw service in Vietnam, with 521 of those losing their lives and over 3,000 wounded.
We also now know many more carry the often invisible wounds of mind and soul as a result of their service in Vietnam.
The Vietnam War is often referred to as an event which divided the nation and was the cause of the highest level of community and political objection in this country since the conscription referendums in the time of World War One.
Some of the population turned against returning soldiers causing many servicemen and women to reflect on their Vietnam War service as a something to be ashamed of.
Thankfully the way Vietnam Veterans were initially treated was identified as a national disgrace.
The establishment of the Vietnam War Memorial in Canberra and an official welcome home parade in Sydney during 1987 served as an apology to Vietnam Veterans and their families.
This year the Vietnam Veterans Day service in Nambucca Heads will feature a special guest who will be singing the Australian National Anthem.
Mrs Sheila O'Connor, who's late husband, Brian O'Connor, was a Vietnam Veteran, has volunteered to do the honours and the organisers of the service have greatly accepted her offer.
Sheila considers, as the widow of a Vietnam Veteran and having been a professional singer most of her life, it would be appropriate for her to volunteer to sing the Anthem.
Sheila, who now resides in Old Bar, has a great affinity with the Nambucca Valley.
Her late husband, Brian, came from Bowraville.
Born in Bellingen and living some early years at Argents Hill, Brian's family moved to Bowraville when he was very young where his father was a partner of Fullers Timber Mill.
Sheila reflects she and Brian always spent their holidays returning to Bowraville.
The couple also lived in the district when they operated a takeaway food business known as 'Zippy's' in Nambucca Heads in the 1990's.
Brian was sent to Vietnam in 1967 as National Serviceman and Sheila notes the standing joke of the day was 'It was the only lottery he ever won'.
Initially driving heavy vehicles in Vietnam, Brian spent the second half of his tour of duty as an ambulance driver.
When Brian returned from Vietnam in late 1968 he relayed to his family he did not like the American troops he had encountered and would be happy never to meet another American.
One year later he met and fell in love with Sheila who, ironically, is American.
Sheila jokes the man who never wanted to meet another American ended up stuck with one for the rest of his life.
She was born and raised in New York and migrated to Australia with her family in 1968.
Sheila says Brian seldom opened up about his time in Vietnam however, like so many other veterans, the war left its mark on him.
She is quick to add however that Brian was very proud of his service in Vietnam and kept in touch with close mates from those days.
Sheila was a well known singer on the Sydney club circuit through the 70's and early 80's, then she and Brian moved to the country around the time the club scene started to die out in the mid 1980's.
Sheila added Brian spent his working life always edging closer to his beloved Bowraville.
You can hear Sheila O'Connor lead in the singing of the National Anthem at the Vietnam Veterans Day Service at 11 am on Wednesday August 18, at the Nambucca Heads Cenotaph.
The key note address for the service will be delivered by Sergeant Matt Campbell, a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan.
Please note it will be a COVID Safe event and you will be expected to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and register your attendance either in the NSW Govt COVID App or by providing contact details to Nambucca Heads RSL Sub Branch volunteers.
Please do not attend if you are unwell.
Lest we Forget.
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