A SERVICE to commemorate Australian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam 50 years ago resembled more of a 'thank you' for everything Vietnam Veterans have done for society.

Infantry officer in the Australian Army Reserve since 1979, John Phelan told an audience of over 400 people at the Cockscomb Veterans Retreat this morning that he simply wanted to say 'thank you'.

"I do believe that perhaps the biggest contribution that they (Vietnam Veterans) have made is to change society's attitude to veterans," he said.

"Vietnam Vets advocacy for recognition, which resulted in events such as the 1987 Welcome Home Parade and the gazetting of August 18, the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, as Vietnam Veterans Day, has changed the way that our society treats its war veterans.

"Now to be a veteran is something to be proud of. That was not universally the case in 1973."

A presentation at the end of the service of a portrait of Vietnam Veteran Harry Mimi to his family members and the Cockscomb retreat, was also a 'thank you' to all veterans.

Artist Kerri-Anne Mesner said the portrait was her way of saying thank you to veterans for their service in combat, their strength and courage to share their stories with her (a reporter of 12 years) and creating awareness around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which affects people from all walks of life, not just war veterans.

Cockscomb Veterans Retreat President Herb Elliot said it was magnificent to see so many people at today's ceremony.

"It does make us (veterans) feel really proud to see all of you here today," he said at the ceremony.

Anglican Dean Lindsay Howie, whose grandfather fought at the Battle of Somme in World War I, talked about what society needs to do for those returning from conflicts overseas.

He said he had been a priest for some 40 years and has known many Vietnam Veterans.

"I could count on one hand those (Vietnam Veterans) that are travelling well," Mr Howie said.

He said there are generations now who would apologise to Vietnam Veterans for the way they were treated after they returned from war, but what does society do with that?

"We need to make sure those soldiers who are serving now in foreign lands that when they come home that their service is honoured, that their duty is respected," Mr Howie said.

He said they will suffer from the same affects as many of the veterans who served in other conflicts.



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