Vietnam veterans salute lost comrades

By Aroha Mane

It's arguably New Zealand's most controversial war from the 20th century. Many looking to serve honorably were impacted by political agendas, subject to Agent Orange exposure, reluctant to seek post-support services and fought for repatriation of lost loved ones. Today marks the 54th anniversary of Vietnam Veterans' Day.

Today surviving veterans pay tribute to their dearly departed comrades at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

V4 Company veteran Taituha (Sonny) Hona says, “This is the thing I enjoy, I mean remembering what you did. Even more so remembering your mates who have died up there but also who have gone since and that's the beautiful thing of it all.”

Before Hona joined his mother had some reservations about him joining.

“The 161 Battery come back in1965, they come up Queen Street and they were pelted with tomatoes and regs and everything. My mother said to me you really want to go to Vietnam and come back to that. Anyway fast forward she actually picked me up from the airport to avoid all of that.”

More than 3,000 NZ personal served in Vietnam and Thirty-seven men died while on active service and 187 were wounded.

“I come from the heart of the North Island and you can hear te reo of the different people. You can understand, ok you're from Taranaki and you're Ngāti Porou, now you're Ngāpuhi. You might have a dig at each other but at the end of the day you're all singing.”

There were very few Māori veterans who served in Vietnam who attended today's service and the question remains is it too little too late to offer them support.

“I guess the political question as asked by my daughter cos I did take her back to Vietnam. She said dad did you guys really need to be here, I said darling when you're in the army you do what the army tells you. But in hindsight, you're probably correct.”

Now all that's left is the sound of sorrow in the heart for those soldiers who fell in the war in Vietnam.