Home' The Great Southern Star : August 9th 2016 Contents “THE STAR” Tuesday, August 9, 2016 - PAGE 31
Thursday 18 August, 5.30pm - 7.30pm
Leongatha Memorial Hall and Cenotaph
Join us for a night of rememberance with:
Guest speaker Barry Heard, author of
Well Done Those Men
Laying of wreaths and presentation of
Against All Odds photograph
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Entertainment by South Gippsland
Shire Brass Band
Light refreshments provided by
For more information please
contact 5662 9200.
50th Anniversary Commemoration Battle of Long Tan
Image from series ‘Remembering Vietnam’.
Reproduced with permission from the Australian War Memorial.
IN COMMEMORATION of the 50th
anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan
Thursday, August 18, Fish Creek RSL
has recruited the help of men from a cor-
rectional facility to assist in the construc-
tion of a memorial garden.
For the past three months, the men
have visited the memorial garden to
work on the project.
“It’s a very worthwhile cause,”
RSL secretary Roslyn Bryan said.
“It gives them something to look
forward to and we have definitely
benefitted from them.”
Fish Creek RSL has had a long-
standing relationship with the cor-
rectional facility, consistently providing work for
the men. Working one day a month under super-
vision, the men have made the memorial garden
project their own.
“The men from corrections surprised me to-
tally,” Ms Bryan said.
“They have made a bleeding heart out of
rocks. It is absolutely amazing and beautiful.”
Also involved in the project is the Foster
Men’s Shed, which built the cross that will be
displayed in the garden. Included on the cross is
a solar powered light up the middle
that will light up at night.
On the end of the cross is a tear-
drop. A candle from the funeral of
Vietnam veteran and Medal of Valour
recipient John Koblin will be placed
in the teardrop on the day of the an-
Bunnings in Wonthaggi has also
joined the project and is currently
growing plants for the garden. The
memorial is expected to be completed on Thurs-
day, August 11.
The ceremony to open Fish Creek RSL’s new
memorial garden will be held at the RSL at 10am
on Thursday, August 18.
THE Vietnam War is never far from
Richard Lester’s mind.
The Mardan man said Anzac Days still stir
memories and emotions of the scariest time of
He was conscripted to two years of national
service in Vietnam as a 20 year old, threatened
with two years’ jail if he refused.
“I luckily survived, but will never forget com-
ing home a lost, emotionally crippled soul,” he
said, on the eve of Long Tan commemorations.
“After my national Vietnam service in 1967
to 1968, my conflicted military experiences are
“My overwhelming emotion is still grief, as
I try to understand the horrific sacrifice and cost
of war and how Australians have dealt with the
grief of war.
“There’s hardly a day I don’t mourn for vic-
tims of violence, so often personal, random and
grotesque and replayed on the media, without ad-
equate justification or reasoning.
“Why are we still so prone to war, why is it cul-
turally normalised and likened to an Anzac week-
end football game. You soon recover from a sports
injury. War-time experiences last a lifetime.”
This is his story:
“Our military heritage consists of hundreds
of cemeteries and monuments. We still nation-
ally glorify the human sacrifice and display the
machinery of war. But, we still struggle to meet
the daily needs to support and heal the living sur-
vivors, the multitude of human scarred bodies,
memories and their mental health.
“For those wounded by war, the real, never end-
ing pain of war is often left in the shadows, but on
some public occasions, the heartfelt tears of war
victims wells to the surface. So often, they have
never felt free to tell their untold personal story.
“There still feels that there is a code of silence
to continue not to talk openly about our grief.
War is hell and unexplainable.
“I can never forget that war can make a man,
often a broken man. Wars are always random kill-
ing fields for boy soldiers who become the tragic
victims, with a multitude of innocent civilians,
so often women and children. A nation’s tragic
loss is the future potential of a generation of its
youth, and a crippling legacy of broken personal
and family lives.
“However, despite the horrific loss of war, the
call to arms still remains a sovereign pledge of
national allegiance and loyalty.
“Chillingly, all it still takes is a bugle call
of political rhetoric, around a perceived threat
or honouring a military treaty, the promise of a
short victory, the solidarity of wearing uniform
and creating reluctant heroes.
“There is no peace for many returned veter-
ans, often a life of pain too hard to bear, many
broken and divided families and so many lost
their way, alone, stuck in their grief.
“Many veterans live in the shadows, on the
margins of a society that claims to care, but
many, in the end, take their own lives to desper-
ately resolve their feelings of grief, hopelessness
“At age 70, I feel so lucky. I survived my two
year National Service and now, 48 years later, am
still searching for my personal reinvention, my
place of peace and place in our community.
“I thank the patient support of family and
friends. I thank Laurie Trotman, manager of the
Leongatha RSL in the 1970s who offered me a
“I found a foundation for my peace planting
trees on our family farm, with my mum, in the
1970s. My healing Nature Nurture.”
After receiving counselling for post traumatic
stress disorder in 1996, Mr Lester began to find
positive resolution and relief, putting pen to paper.
In 2010, he was awarded second prize in a
story writing competition held by the Department
of Veterans Affairs.
He attended his first D Coy reunion in 2010
at Tweed Heads, with son Rowan and aging Viet-
nam veteran mates.
“In 2015, for the first time, I returned to Viet-
nam with my son Rowan as my minder, to see the
reality of modern Vietnam,” Mr Lester said.
“All that remained nearby our defensive camp
at Nui Dat was the Long Tan Cross. We shed a
tear and lit some incense sticks to respect to all
those who suffered, back amongst the familiar,
shady rubber trees. A final farewell, another sign
for the need for me to move on.”
While Australia mourns its war losses, Mr
Lester said Vietnam grieves for more than 15
million dead, maimed or missing. Whole families
were lost; men, women and children.
“Despite our past suffering, we found modern
Vietnam such a beautiful and welcoming place,
a wonderful reconciliation from my fearful and
confusing military experiences as a conscripted,
20 year old boy soldier. Vietnam was no longer
just a battlefield of fearful memories.”
SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council and
the Leongatha RSL are hosting a 50th
Anniversary Battle of Long Tan event
to honour those who served Australia
during the Vietnam conflict, whether in
Vietnam or within Australia, along with
their families and friends.
The event has been organised to create an op-
portunity for people who served and those who
supported them to talk about their experiences in
a comfortable setting, to provide an opportunity
to show our respect and to have some fun.
Former South Gippsland Shire Councillor and
Vietnam veteran Richard Lester was a catalyst for
the event and will be laying a wreath on behalf
Council is pleased that guest speaker is Bar-
ry Heard, a Vietnam veteran who has written a
highly regarded memoire about his time in Viet-
Fish Creek garden to
pay tribute to vets
Council acknowledges Long Tan 50th anniversary
nam and the difficult years following his return
The South Gippsland Shire Brass Band will
be providing musical entertainment of the era
and the Leongatha RSL will supply light refresh-
Mayor Cr Bob Newton said the Long Tan event
would provide an opportunity for participants to
speak about their stories during the evening.
“We can only imagine the gruelling conditions
experienced by those who fought in Vietnam dur-
ing the war but it is our responsibility to listen
to those who did and demonstrate our gratitude,”
“It is vital we provide our respect to not only
those who bravely fought in the Vietnam War but
in all wars and conflicts as they have sacrificed to
ensure our safety and quality of life.
“Council looks forward to supporting the event
and we encourage everyone to attend to support
those who served and to show their respect.”
The event is open to the public and will be
held on August 18 from 5.30pm to 7.15pm in Le-
ongatha Memorial Hall.
Please contact council on 5662 9200 to advise
your attendance for catering purposes. Individu-
als are welcome to continue socialising in the Le-
ongatha RSL after the event.
The battle within
Back there: Vietnam veteran Richard Lester of Mardan in front of Ho Chi Minh’s Mauso-
leum, 2015 – “an impressive, sombre, patriotic tribute to Vietnamese character and history,”
Vietnam veteran’s journey to inner peace
heart out of
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