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Tribute08 – recognition for Vietnam veterans

Tribute08 – recognition for Vietnam veterans

The contribution and sacrifices of New Zealand’s Vietnam War veterans and their families is to be recognised at Tribute08, a commemoration and reunion event, to be held during Queen’s Birthday Weekend in Wellington.

The event will mark a milestone in New Zealand’s history. It will be the first occasion in which veterans will receive official recognition of their service in Vietnam. It will also acknowledge that veterans and their families have not been treated fairly in New Zealand since the war ended more than 30 years ago.

Tribute08 will be in Wellington from Friday 30 May to Sunday 1 June 2008. Hundreds of veterans, most bringing members of their family, have already registered and many more are expected at the event, which will be both a commemoration and a reunion.

“Tribute08 will be of national significance,” says Organising Committee Chairman Chris Mullane, a Vietnam veteran himself. “It will mark the point at which Vietnam veterans – and their families – receive proper recognition, with dignity and respect, for their service, which the nation has sadly denied them in the past.”

It is also a unique opportunity for veterans to meet old mates and share memories.

“The get-togethers will undoubtedly be a highlight of the weekend, particularly at the Friday night and Saturday afternoon sub-unit reunions,” Chris says. “It will also be a very special time for family members, who will be able to talk to other families about their experiences, and renew acquaintances made at previous reunions.”

Tribute08 includes an honour march to Parliament on the Saturday morning, a moving whakanoa ceremony to acknowledge the 37 New Zealanders who gave their lives in Vietnam, a Sunday memorial service at the National War Memorial and a commemoration event at the Basin Reserve. There will also be a nostalgic music and entertainment concert on the Saturday night, and public exhibitions and displays at various venues throughout Wellington.

“We are urging all Vietnam veterans and their families to participate and help to make Tribute08 a truly memorable and significant occasion in New Zealand's history,” Mr Mullane says.

The event has been organised with government assistance as part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in December 2006, in which the Government recognises that Vietnam veterans and their families have legitimate concerns about how they have been treated over the past 30 years.

Mr Mullane says the MoU will bring considerable benefits to all veterans and their families – not just those who served in Vietnam. “Maximum attendance at Tribute08 will help ensure remaining issues are kept alive so they can be continually addressed.”

The MoU was signed by the Government, the Ex-Vietnam Services Association (EVSA) and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RNZRSA). It is the result of extensive consultation with veterans through a Joint Working Group and considerable negotiation between the Government and the veterans groups, to ensure all concerns were considered.

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