Anzac Day bittersweet for Vietnam Veteran

Vietnam veteran, Derrick Marsh, has been bed-ridden in Rannerdale Veterans' Care for over three years.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Vietnam veteran, Derrick Marsh, has been bed-ridden in Rannerdale Veterans' Care for over three years.

To Vietnam War veteran Derrick Marsh, Anzac Day has always held a great deal of significance.

In the early years following the war, attitudes and a lack of understanding prevented him from freely acknowledging his service in public.

"I used to have to hide away from it but now the public are more aware of it and the veterans who served," he said.

Aiva Bratty, 19 months-old, takes in the Anzac Day memorial in Cranmer Square.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Aiva Bratty, 19 months-old, takes in the Anzac Day memorial in Cranmer Square.

On Tuesday, the 68 year-old, who had been bed-ridden for over three years, would remember his mates from his room at Rannerdale Veterans' Care in Christchurch.

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Marsh said it was heartening to see younger generations taking a keen interest in history and turning out in great numbers on Anzac Day to acknowledge all those who had served the nation, including Vietnam veterans.

Derrick Marsh's medals, left to right, NZ Operational Service Medal, The Vietnam Medal, NZ General Service Medal ...
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Derrick Marsh's medals, left to right, NZ Operational Service Medal, The Vietnam Medal, NZ General Service Medal (Vietnam), NZ Defence Service Medal, and the South Vietnamese Campaign Medal.

"It's important to us that the public know we went for a reason. We didn't just go to make a war. We went because we thought it was good to go and help out."

Marsh's voluntary service in Vietnam came over a few beers with his flatmates. 

"I was the only silly one that got in," he said.

When his duty ended in 1973, Marsh returned to his job as a bank manager and tried to forget the horrors of Vietnam, amidst the backlash and controversy that followed New Zealand's involvement.

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"In the earlier days the public didn't fully understand what veterans had been through... and the sort of trauma we went through."

"Unfortunately there were riots and everything and we had to be hidden away from it. That happened right up until the Government apologised for their actions."

Marsh was among the nearly 3400 New Zealanders who served in Vietnam during the war between June 1964 and December 1972, and who waited until 2008 to be formally recognised by the Crown for their service.

The trauma he suffered as a result of his stints in Malaya and Vietnam had been impossible to shake over the years.

"You just have to fight it."

Anzac Day continued to be bittersweet for Marsh, who in his three years at Rannerdale had watched as three fellow Vietnam veterans died. 

Rannerdale Veterans' Care general manager Steve Shamy​ said Anzac Day was not about glorifying war, but paying respects to the service and sacrifice of veterans from both historical and contemporary times.

"We need to realise now there is a contemporary group of veterans and many are young and serving in the defence force. Many of them, and their families are making the sacrifice."

"It is time to pass the baton and we need to be looking at how we support that cohort."

 - Stuff

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