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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 9494


Mr BYRNE (Holt) (09:57): I rise today to pay tribute and acknowledge my friend and proud Vietnam veteran, Denny van Maanenberg. One of the Vietnam veterans who had previously been involved in the Cranbourne RSL in my electorate of Holt, he is also a member of the Vietnam Veterans Motor Cycle Club, Gippsland Chapter.

Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day took place last week and therefore, my knowing Denny, it was a good time for me to talk about him, to share some of his story and give an account of his life as a Vietnam veteran: one story, one thread, one account of a life’s journey from one of the almost 60,000 people who served our country in Vietnam.

But something really troubles me in hearing the stories from our returning Vietnam veterans—the recurring stories. That is their treatment from some elements of the Australian community upon their return after service, treatment which profoundly wounded them, scarred them and affected their return back to their loves ones and their community.

Denny was a private who served 22 years in the armed forces—10 years in the Regular Army and 12 in the Army Reserves. He ended his services as a temporary captain. Denny’s apprehension about his return to Australia commenced just prior to his return from Vietnam in April 1970. Denny recalled being in a war zone in a foreign land and expecting Australians to be supportive of our troops and his brothers-in-arms, as he would say, who were serving alongside him. Understandably, he says it cut a lot of blokes fairly deeply hearing the news of protests and demonstrations, particularly those that disrupted their supplies and mail from loved ones at home.

Upon returning from 12 months service at age 21—in other words, a full tour of duty in Vietnam—Denny, like many other returning soldiers, was flown back on a midnight flight to Sydney to avoid confrontation from an expected crowd of protestors at the airport. When the returning soldiers were directed through Customs he saw that his family had flown up to greet him, including his father who was a World War II veteran and his brother who was in the Navy. However, this joyous homecoming and the presence of his family was short-lived as it was not long before rotten tomatoes and cabbages were thrown his way from a dozen or so demonstrators who also carried placards. Some homecoming! This shameful, this disgusting treatment of those who were laying their lives on the line for our country cut very deeply for Denny and many other veterans. They still recall this disgraceful treatment to this day.

From 1970 until the late 1980s they felt that their contribution to this country’s military history had not been recognised. Of course now they believe that it has been recognised. But can I say this as someone who knows Denny and his enormous contribution to our community, particularly post his service in his role with the Casey Regional Welfare Association: on behalf of our community I apologise for those people who interfered with your recovery and did not adequately represent the true feelings of our country. I hope this goes some way in helping to heal the wounds that you have experienced in service and laying your life on the line for our country. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for constituency statements has concluded.