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Australia will stop and remember the end of a chapter in its military history on Friday, August 18, marking half-a-century since the nation’s troops withdrew from the Vietnam War.
The significant anniversary will be honoured with a commemoration ceremony at the Shepparton War Memorial, on the corner of Welsford and Fryers Sts, at 11am, followed by a light lunch at the Shepparton RSL.
The ceremony is a tribute to the 525 brave Australians who died during the Vietnam War, and everyone is invited to attend.
Shane O’Keefe, who served in the Australian Army as a national serviceman from July 1969 to July 1971, will be the event’s guest speaker.
Based in Nui Dat with the Royal Australian Engineers 17 Construction Squadron, Major O’Keefe was part of a survey team undertaking construction throughout the task force’s area of operations.
His commitment to service did not stop after fulfilling his national service obligation.
Joining the Army Reserve, he served 22 years, where he rose to the rank of major.
Throughout his tenure, he led 91 Forestry Squadron, later 105 Construction Squadron, and worked with Headquarters 6 Engineer Group and 22 Construction Regiment, all within the Engineers.
Originally from Warrnambool, Major O’Keefe moved to Shepparton and eventually Melbourne, where he continues to serve the community as a military compensation advocate with RSL Victoria and is a member of the Epping RSL.
Leading up to Vietnam Veterans Day, short vigil services were held for three soldiers killed in action during the Vietnam War.
The Goulburn Valley Vietnam Veterans Association carried out simultaneous services for Stuart Barnett and Ronald Coxon, interred at Shepparton Cemetery, while both Tatura RSL and Goulburn Valley Vietnam Veterans Association commemorated Donald Aylett, who is buried at Tatura Cemetery.
Private Barnett, a national servicemen and member of the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR), was tragically killed after just 38 days “in country” on June 27, 1968.
A newlywed, he was the battalion’s first soldier killed in action in South Vietnam.
Lance Corporal Coxon’s life was cut short by a sniper during the “Hobo Woods” operation’s final day.
A member of D Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Lance Corporal Coxon was the first Australian Vietnam War soldier buried on Victorian soil by the army.
Corporal Aylett conducted two tours in Vietnam, serving with the 1st and 7th Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment.
At age 22, he was killed in action leading his section in Phuoc Toy Province on August 6, 1967.
Friday’s commemoration is a chance to remember all those who died for their country during the Vietnam War.
Cadet Journalist
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