THE Riverina community is invited to Wagga's Victory Memorial Gardens this Friday to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day.
While the official day is August 18 every year, the Riverina Sub-Branch of the Vietnam Veterans Federation will hold commemorations two days earlier.
The occasion was originally known as Long Tan Day, chosen to commemorate the men of D Company, 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regimen, who fought in the battle of Long Tan in 1966.
On that day, 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against more than 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan.
The Australians prevailed, but only after fighting in torrential rain for four hours. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Binh Ba during the war.
The battle was one of the major victories by the Australians in Vietnam and although they would encounter Communist Main Force units in the future, it effectively marked the end of such large-scale clashes.
Wagga-based veteran Des Carmody, who served for nearly one year during the war, recalled the heavy losses sustained by the North Vietnamese.
"[They] were temporarily forced out of Phuoc Tuy [province] and into the adjoining province of Kong Kanh," the 70-year-old said.
Fellow veteran and sub-branch secretary Ralph Todd, who was involved in the battle of Coral-Balmoral and stationed at Nui Dat where the Australian Taskforce Headquarters were, encouraged residents to attend the service.
"I'd like people to come along to join us veterans in remembering the people we serve with," Mr Todd, 72, said.
"In particularly, the ones who didn't come home."
Of the more than 50,000 Australians who served in the Vietnam War, more than 500 were killed in action and 3500 wounded in action.
The wreath laying ceremony and service will start at 11am at the Victory Memorial Gardens.
- Master of ceremonies: Des Carmody
- Civic welcome: Mayor Greg Conkey
- Opening address: Wagga MP Joe McGirr
- Official address: Lieutenant Commander Nabil Mikhail, Senior Naval Officer
- Service chaplain: David Harding, coordinating chaplain ARTC Kapooka