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Commemorate the fallen, remember the forgotten
By Joseph Smith | April 24th, 2005


This ANZAC Day, Australians will remember those who fell at Gallipoli 90 years ago and the ultimate sacrifice they made for their nation.

Yet a Chaplain to War Veterans has called for the government and the nation to remember the often forgotten soldiers who served in the Vietnam War.

"We need to value these people. All people ought to be treated justly, and those who have served our country in this way ought to be treated no less than justly. And preferably, I would think, generously," says the Chaplain to Concord Repatriation General Hospital, the Rev Paul Weaver.

Mr Weaver says veterans of Vietnam have never received the treatment they deserve for serving overseas.

"The veterans were not welcomed or celebrated upon their return from Vietnam. Many went through terrible experiences and came back mentally and emotionally damaged, yet, by and large were unheralded by the community."

Media reports on the snubbing of Anzac Day celebrations by Vietnam veterans have brought to the public's attention the protest against the government's alleged insufficient treatment of war veterans and their families.

Vietnam Veterans Federation president Tim McCombe and Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Servicemen and Women president John "Blue' Ryan are saying they will not go to Gallipoli with the government party because of veterans' objections to issues such as the downgrading of the military compensation scheme.

According to comments made by Mr McCombe and Mr Ryan to Brisbane's Courier Mail, there were several areas where they felt the government had not adequately supported veterans. 

The veterans' pension which was previously paid for life now ends at 65. Soldiers wounded on the battlefield are no longer described as "wounded in action'. Wives who care for disabled war veteran husbands are not eligible to receive Prime Minister John Howard's election promise of a $1000 bonus payment to civilian carers.

According to the Courier Mail, Veterans Affairs Minister De-Anne Kelly is declining to take questions on veterans' issues raised by Mr Ryan and Mr McCombe.

However, a government spokesperson has told the Courier Mail that Mr Ryan and Mr McCombe "have a right to express their opinion and they have done so. The Government remains committed to looking after the interests of all veterans".

At 56 years of age, the chaplain to Concord Repatriation General Hospital grew up as part of the Vietnam generation.

"I was of the generation that was in the ballots at the time of the Vietnam War. I was not called up for service in the late 60s, but the Vietnam War is of personal significance to me."

"Talking to veterans I've met in hospital, one thing that has become clear " it was a nasty war to be involved in. There were nasty tactics and no clear division of right and wrong."

Mr Weaver believes veterans should be cared for by the government and valued by the community.

As a chaplain, Mr Weaver says the best thing he can do is bring the gospel to people by meeting them where they are at.

"First and foremost chaplaincy is a ministry of listening and being there for people. Only from there can I do a ministry of counselling and leading."

"Gospel ministry always starts with meeting people where they're at. Unless you do that, you aren't in a position to effectively bring the message of Christ to them. Otherwise it can seem as if a person is coming in and laying down the law rather than sharing the gospel."

Mr Weaver is also calling for prayer for all people involved in conflict.

"We should pray for leaders of all nations to establish a good peace on all sides. For those serving in battle to the military personal doing peace keeping in Iraq and Indonesia. We are reminded that even those who don't appear to be in danger still face danger and death."