14 Feb 2019

Vietnam War veterans to be formally recognised 50 years on

10:17 am on 14 February 2019

Vietnam War veterans who were honoured for their bravery or exceptional service will have their efforts formally acknowledged by the Governor-General.

Veterans pay their respects to those who served in the Vietnam War.

Veterans pay their respects to those who served in the Vietnam War. (File photo) Photo: RNZ / Matt Atkinson

Ceremonies will be held in Auckland today and Wellington tomorrow for 30 men who were mentioned in despatches (MID) during the war.

At the time, people who received that honour were recognised through an informal handshake from the commanding officer, or an announcement in the New Zealand Gazette.

These days recipients would get a formal military parade.

Vietnam veterans' groups have been advocating for greater recognition for people who received a MID.

Minister of Defence Ron Mark

Ron Mark Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

Veterans' Affairs Minister Ron Mark said the ceremonies at Government House were a fitting way to "put this wrong to right and to acknowledge these brave men who went above and beyond the call of duty".

While their actions may not have met the threshold at that time for receiving a military medal or cross, Mr Mark said what they did was noted and reported on.

"Today, we're formally recognising that and giving it the level of recognition that they justifiably deserve," he said.

"I wish it had been done earlier. I'm thankful to Bob Davies for pursuing, being persistent and vocal as he has been in advocating for these men.

"Regrettably there are people who've passed away waiting for this moment."

Veterans who got a MID already wear an emblem, an oak leaf.

Surviving veterans or the families of those who have since died will be presented with a formal letter and a copy of the citation by the Governor-General.

Robert Munro will be presented an award at the Wellington ceremony.

Being recognised nearly 50 years later is "a bit strange" for him.

"It brings back memories. In my case, it was 47 years ago," he told Morning Report.

"I was with the Aussies, I was an intelligence officer. We got out and about and did some paperwork - trying to work out what the enemy were wanting to do next - and tried to work out what was happening and get our fellows to respond to it."

He remembers working very hard, long hours and success.

The award would mean more to the family, he said.

The former MP for Invercargill said being formally acknowledged took such a long time because "there aren't any forces pushing it, internally. The veteran community generally is an accepting community".

"The time I was an MP I did not get a single representation from a former service person seeking something for an improvement ... things, I hope have changed."

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