REMEMBRANCE DAY: ‘We must stay true to our values’
FOR Vietnam veteran Andrew McKay, service during the war meant fighting for freedoms.
Today, his values remained unshaken as he stood shoulder to shoulder with other veterans for the Remembrance Day service in Airlie Beach.
Ex-servicemen and women gathered at the cenotaph for a minute’s silence to honour those who have served and continue to fight for Australia.
Mr McKay said it was this fight that had earned the country the political freedom it enjoys today, and he encouraged the leaders of the future to ensure they kept their ideals at the forefront of their minds.
“Stay true to your values,” he said.
“Democracy is the only efficient, caring system around the whole world and that’s what we have to protect.
“We must stay true to our values and support the democratic process, so when it’s time for elections, get out there and vote.”
Mr McKay was called up for national service in 1969 and spent two years in the Australian Army.
After his recruit and core training, he completed 10 months of jungle training in the South Vietnam city of Vung Tau.
Mr McKay was in the logistic reserves and described his role as the “back up to the fighting forces”.
One of his most vivid memories of service was a helicopter ride over the Mekong Delta where he dropped leaflets over enemy territory.
On the leaflets were messages to try and encourage fighters in the Viet Cong, or the communist forces, to move across to the Viet Minh.
When he returned to Australia, Mr McKay said he was met with hostility at Sydney Airport.
“People were exceedingly rude to us,” he said.
“They scorned us; they didn’t understand that we were trying to give South Vietnam a continuous democratic process.”
Mr McKay said because of this cold reception, Remembrance Day services were even more valuable as they gave veterans recognition for their sacrifice.
“This is extremely important to me, as an ex-serviceman, to recognise the fighting soldiers,” he said.
“It’s the poor fellas who went out there and did the blood and guts work who believed in what they were doing.
“It’s vital that we continue these commemorations and these ceremonies for the up and coming generation to understand that we have to fight for freedom sometimes, unfortunately.
“It’s a sad reality that if you want your peace and your way of life, sometimes you have to fight for it.”