Soldiers to be recognised
THE power of the press, led by the Fraser Coast Chronicle, has propelled the Gillard government into action over the shameful snub of the soldiers who fought the Vietnam War’s heroic Long Tan battle.
On Thursday the Chronicle published the exclusive story that Hervey Bay’s retired Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith, who led the David and Goliath battle on August 18, 1966, had asked for his belatedly awarded Star of Gallantry to be posted to him.
“I will not accept the SOG at Government House in Canberra as kindly arranged by the governor-general because Army HQ won’t allow my men to be there at the same time to receive their Unit Citation for Gallantry award.
“I owe my life to my men.
“Either Defence HQ allows them to go too or I don’t turn up. And instead Paul Neville, the Hinkler MP who has backed us in our fight to get these awards, will present mine to me in the Maryborough Military Museum on August 17.”
That night national television and radio followed the Chronicle’s lead and the next day the Courier-Mail published the story.
Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin emerged as the hero in righting the snub when, reportedly livid, he went in to fight right to the top for Harry and his men.
On Saturday the minister told Harry the good news. He, his fellow officers and his soldiers can now be presented with their medals and awards as a unit in Brisbane after the election and either at Enoggera army base or at Government House.
“I am very proud that Alan Griffin and the whole veteran community around Australia have supported us in this battle to be presented with our awards as a team.
“It is because we were a team in Vietnam on August 18, 1966, that we won the battle against impossible odds,” Harry said.