VIETNAM Veterans Day in Wagga this year will have added meaning for returned servicemen as they pay tribute to Neville Smerdon.
Mr Smerdon, president of the Riverina sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association for the past seven years, died on June 29.
A minute’s silence for Mr Smerdon will be held at the start of the Vietnam Veterans Day commemorative service in the Victory Memorial Gardens on Tuesday.
The annual service is timed to mark the anniversary of the 1966 Battle of Long Tan in which 108 Australian and New Zealand troops were attacked in a rubber plantation by a Viet Cong force estimated at 2500.
Eighteen Australians were killed and 24 were wounded. The enemy suffered at least 245 dead.
The battle is a rallying point for the courage and fighting ability of Australians in Vietnam.
Sub-branch co-ordinator Ralph Todd said Mr Smerdon was greatly missed by his colleagues.
“He gave as much as he could in the way of advice and help to Vietnam veterans with welfare and pensions,” Mr Todd said.
Tuesday’s service will be held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Mr Todd said all members of the public were welcome to attend the service.
A tri-service catafalque party provided by RAAF Base Wagga will mount at 10.55am, followed by the minute’s silence for Mr Smerdon.
Sub-branch vice president John Ploenges will be master of ceremonies.
Mayor Rod Kendall will deliver an opening address.
The occasional address will be given by the senior Australian Defence Force officer at RAAF Base Wagga, Group Captain Ross Jones.
Prayers will be led by Chaplain Andrew Robinson.
Mr Smerdon’s wife, Sally, will lay a wreath on the Vietnam War memorial on behalf of the sub-branch.
Mr Todd said 2015 marked 50 years since Australian ground troops landed in Vietnam and 40 years since all deployment to the war ceased.
Some 60,000 Australians served in the Vietnam War, and 521 of them died in the service of their country.
Mr Todd said age was now starting to take its toll on Vietnam veterans.
“In our sub-branch alone we have lost three members in 2015,” he said.
“We are now all aged around the 70 mark.”
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