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Viet Nam exhibition in Wellington

29 May 2008 Media Statement

Viet Nam exhibition in Wellington

Defence Minister Phil Goff today opened an exhibition depicting the Viet Nam War and its effects on veterans and their families.

Vietnam: Not just a 12 month tour will be on show at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington from 29 May to 8 June.

“The exhibition is part of Tribute08, a celebration honouring and respecting Viet Nam Veterans and their families and commemoration of those who lost their lives,” Phil Goff said.

“The exhibition portrays the experiences of the Viet Nam War. It shows the experiences of the Veterans on the ground in Viet Nam and on their return home. It also reflects the images of the war, the first war that television brought into the living rooms of New Zealanders, and of the protests.

“The exhibition includes photographs taken during the war, information on the war’s international and New Zealand context, and captures sounds from Viet Nam, from the noise of an Iroquois Helicopter to the popular music of the day. It also charts the struggle by Veterans to have their concerns recognised and addressed.

“The Viet Nam War was a war to which we committed approximately 3500 troops, who undertook their duties loyally and bravely. Of these 37 lost their lives and 187 were wounded. Others have suffered long term effects from the war,” Phil Goff said.

“Much controversy surrounded our military engagement in that war. It had a decisive and long-lasting impact on the debate about the direction of our foreign and defence policies – stimulating widespread support for a more independent approach to international affairs.

“A casualty of that debate however was the troops who served their country in Viet Nam. They did not make the decision to support the war. That was the decision of the government of the day.

“They did however make the decision to serve their country with courage. For that they deserved not condemnation but respect.

“Tribute08, to be held in Wellington this weekend and of which this exhibition is a part, is an opportunity for us to say thank you and to belatedly welcome veterans home. It is also an opportunity for us to remember the 37 soldiers who did not return.

“It comes after yesterday’s apology by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Crown in Parliament to Viet Nam Veterans and their families for the manner in which their service and subsequent health concerns were not recognised,” Phil Goff said.

ENDS

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