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Vietnam Veteran gets boost at health expo

For Auckland-based Vietnam veteran Joe Henry, one of the features of the recent health and wellbeing expo in Manukau was the way the old soldiers were able to help each other.

More than 300 Vietnam veterans and their family members attended the health and wellbeing expo organised by Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.

Veterans’ Affairs, working in partnership with Ranfurly Veterans Trust and Auckland University of Technology, brought together 16 veteran support agencies, providers and support organisations. Vietnam veterans in Auckland and Waikato were invited to the expo, which featured support and services in a “one-stop shop”.

Veterans met Veterans’ Affairs case managers, veteran support agencies and local service providers, received a health check, and were provided seminars and tools to support independent daily living.

Mr Henry, who lives in Manurewa, served in Vietnam in 1970-71 as a radio operator for Victor 5 Company.

Now a kaumātua at Middlemore Hospital, he said the veterans were able to help each other in different ways at the expo.

“Just talking to other veterans, they all mentioned different things that I wasn’t aware I was entitled to,” he said. “But I also noticed some of them were too shy to even ask doctors what the effects of their medication would be or even why they were taking the medication, so through my experience in the health system I was able to ask doctors to explain things to them in layman’s language.”

Mr Henry, who organised the pōwhiri to greet the veterans on arrival at the expo, said catching up with his old comrades in arms was a great thrill.

“Just to get here and meet a lot of people, some who I hadn’t seen in 50-odd years, was definitely a highlight,” he said.

Head of Veterans’ Affairs Bernadine Mackenzie said bringing together Veterans’ Affairs and affiliated organisations in one place was a great way for Vietnam veterans to get information face to face.

“We know the value in sitting down with our veterans and talking with them about what they need,” Ms Mackenzie said. “It helps us to make sure that they are getting the support they need for independent daily living.”

While the expo was a resounding success for those who attended, it is believed a large number of Vietnam veterans, about 600-700, are not accessing the services available to them through Veterans Affairs.

Vietnam veterans who are not currently accessing veteran support are encouraged to contact Veterans’ Affairs through the website www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz or 0800 483 8372.

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