REMEMBERING MATES: John Cunnington, Steve Boutlis, Russ Cass and Warren Proud are preparing for Vietnam Veterans’ Day today.
REMEMBERING MATES: John Cunnington, Steve Boutlis, Russ Cass and Warren Proud are preparing for Vietnam Veterans’ Day today. Warren Lynam

Vietnam Veterans' Day: Fighting like hell for living

JOHN Cunnington celebrated his 21st birthday aboard the HMAS Sydney after being conscripted to serve his country during the Vietnam War.

Mr Cunnington was assigned to the Fourth Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment and served in Vietnam from May 1968 to June 1969.

Like many of those who experienced the war, Mr Cunnington still holds some memories of his time in the military close to his chest.

Others he shares openly with the men he fought alongside.

This morning, the secretary of the Sunshine Coast Vietnam Veterans' Association will stand side-by-side with his comrades and veterans from all generations to mark the 48th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.

To honour the anniversary, the association will hold a commemoration service at Caloundra RSL beginning with a march at 10.45am.

About 400 returned servicemen, their families and members of the wider community are expected ton attend the ceremony this morning.

The Sunshine Coast Sub-Branch is the largest in the country and has been providing pension, welfare and advocacy services for veterans of all conflicts for more than 12 years.

Given the motto of the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia is "honour the dead but fight like hell for the living", Mr Cunnington said they were focused on the new generation of veterans from conflicts such as Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We want to send the message that they are not alone, that they are supported and the general public is very supportive of them," he said.

"There are people that do understand where they have been and what they have been through. There are people who have the skills and knowledge to point them in the right direction if they have any concerns."

Mr Cunnington said as a young solider, mateship was the starting point in getting through the hard times.

"The mates you share those intense times with become your friends for life. That's the case in my situation," he said.

"Many of my close friends are those I served with many years ago.

"The (SCVVA) has been very rewarding as it offers camaraderie and the fact that as a group we can do something tangible for those veterans in need."

Vietnam Veterans' Day

  • 6am: Dawn service at the War Dog memorial, Alexandra Headland
  • 10.45am: Veterans march from the West Tce end of the Caloundra RSL car park
  • 11am: Memorial service at the Caloundra RSL helicopter memorial
  • Noon: Veterans luncheon at the Sunshine Coast Function Centre