Vietnam veterans honoured in Wellington

WE WILL NOT FORGET: Captain Lindsay Skinner reads the New Zealand Roll of Honour.
WE WILL NOT FORGET: Captain Lindsay Skinner reads the New Zealand Roll of Honour.

More than one hundred war veterans gathered with soldiers to remember the Vietnam War today.

The wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan during the Vietnam War, marked another instance of the government's renewed recognition of Vietnam veterans since 2008.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson said the soldiers who fought in foreign wars were an important national legacy.

''I think it's important that we remember the sacrifices that were made in the Vietnam War. I think there's a feeling among the vets ... that their efforts weren't appreciated.''

He said the veterans at the service were looking forward to the construction of the new Memorial Park in front of the current war memorial on Buckle St.

''They're very happy that Memorial Park is finally to be realised ... and that there's increased recognition of their noble efforts.''

In total 3890 New Zealanders served in the war - 37 Kiwis were killed and 187 wounded.

Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, who laid a wreath on behalf of the Defence Force, said national reconciliation with the veterans was ongoing.

''It was probably as influential on New Zealand - the war and the anti-war sentiment - as big for our country as it was anywhere. It's shaped our country.

''The reconciliation with the veterans has been good. [Now] we've moved beyond that ... internally we've welcomed these guys home,'' he said.

Retired-Colonel David Grant, a Captain when he served in Vietnam in 1968-69, appreciated the sentiment behind the service.

He said the public feeling towards Vietnam veterans since Tribute '08 had improved.

''It's nice to get the recognition that we did what we were supposed to do as serving soldiers.

The welcome home in 2008 turned that corner and I think everyone has now got things in perspective."

Contact Sam Boyer
General reporter
Twitter: @SamJBoyer

The Dominion Post