DRIZZLY weather prompted Quinns Rocks RSL to hold its first indoor service as the community marked Vietnam Veterans Day on Monday.
The event involved unveiling of a plaque with the names of 13 soldiers who died in the Vietnam War and who had streets and facilities named after them in Clarkson.
MC Wally Harmer welcomed the sub-branch’s new president, Nick Slater, saying he had ‘taken over from some pretty big boots’ since Frank Baldry left in June.
In another first, a sign language interpreter translated the speeches for the family of one of the soldiers being honoured at the service.
Three sisters of Private James Webster, who died in Phuoc Tuy in 1967, travelled from Gosnells for the service.
‘We are grateful for the opportunity to remember Jim,’ Anne Webster said.
‘It’s a long time ago but the pain is still there of losing our only brother.’
Guest speaker Arthur Ventham said he moved to Australia from the UK when he was eight, and loved it from the start.
‘From an early age I was military-minded ” at 17 I joined the army,’ he said.
‘The army in their wisdom sent me to the small ships section, where I became a soldier-sailor. I was too young to go to Vietnam, even though I wanted to.’
Mr Ventham said he was promoted to corporal when he was 19 and posted to Vietnam, proud of the achievement.
However, he said when he returned to Australia, it was not the same country, and he no longer felt he could wear his uniform with pride.
In 1971, he discovered he could not get an Australian passport because he wasn’t a citizen, despite having served the country. He also struggled to find a job and initially the RSL did not recognise his generation of soldiers, but luckily attitudes changed.
Medically discharged, Mr Ventham said he had often struggled but his wife of 40 years had helped him since the war.
‘I have stood on the abyss and thought about jumping over many many times,’ he said. ‘Many took their own lives who were unable to face the tragedy and trauma that they saw overseas.’
Mr Ventham said he now ran the Northern Suburbs Veteran Support Centre from Gumblossom Community Centre in Quinns Rocks.
Leading the prayer, Lutheran Reverend Gunis Balodis said it was a time to remember those who returned from the war, plus those who fell, and remember ‘the shabby way we treated those veterans.’
Fifth Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Association WA president Alan McNulty said it was a great service to honour those 13 soldiers who were killed, and all who served in Vietnam.
PLAQUE NAMES (STREETS)
Private Richard Aldersea (Aldersea Circle)
Major Peter Badcoe (Badcoe Alley)
Private Brian Beilken (Bielken Way)
Private Nick Cassano (Cassano Boulevard)
Private Noel Crouch (Crouch Vista)
Sapper Rodney Hubble (Hubble Parkway)
Private Lyall McPherson (McPherson Avenue)
Major Brenton Mowbray (Mowbray Square)
Private Roderick Sprigg (Sprigg Pass)
Private Arnold Sykes (Sykes Cove)
Lance Corporal Marian Tomas (Tomas View)
Private Anthony Waring (Waring Green)
Private James Webster (Webster Brace)
See also Veterans remembered