ANZAC Day: Lest we forget



Original post: 25 April 2006

This is my ANZAC Day trib?ute post?ing. ANZAC Day means a great deal for me and my fam?ily. I sup?pose it is because we have a con?nec?tion to the orig?i?nal ANZACS in 1915 and Gal?lipoli, and to a vet?eran of a war much fresher in our minds ? Viet Nam.

Firstly, I pay trib?ute to my great-grandfather Harry Crozier. I never really knew him and he died many years ago. Harry served in the Gal?lipoli cam?paign and, thank?fully, came home alive, albeit with only one working leg. I know he spent con?sid?er?able time in Rotorua con?va?lesc?ing and learned to carve Maori carv?ings as part of his reha?bil?i?ta?tion.

The sec?ond per?son I pay trib?ute to is a guy who truly epit?o?mises the ANZAC spirit. He is an Aussie, liv?ing in New Zealand, who fought for New Zealand in Viet Nam. He is mar?ried to a Kiwi and has three Kiwi kids, and four Kiwi grandkids. He is also my father-in-law.

41873 Gnr Atkins KG 161 Bty was in Viet Nam in 1966, based in Nui Dat and one of the first to arrive and estab?lish the base and gun posi?tions. ‘Oz’ par?tic?i?pated in the famous Bat?tle of Long Tan where the Kiwi guns were instru?men?tal in sav?ing three pla?toons of D Com?pany of the 6th Bat?tal?ion, Royal Aus?tralian Reg?i?ment (6RAR), enabling the thrash?ing of a reg?i?ment of Viet Cong.

Each gun fired over 1,200 rounds that day and night in sup?port of the Aussies. The bat?tle was fought in a rub?ber-tree plan?ta?tion near the vil?lage of Long Tan, about 40km north-east of Vung Tau, South Viet Nam on 18 and 19 August 1966. The bat?tle was fought all after?noon and most of the night in pour?ing mon?soon rain. The guns ran so hot that wet blan?kets were draped over them in an attempt to keep the bar?rels cool.

Kevin tells many sto?ries of his time in Viet Nam but they are not at all ‘warry’, to use his term. They speak a sim?ple truth that war is tough and bru?tal. He often says he hopes his chil?dren never have to go to war and, thank?fully, they prob?a?bly won?t have to.

It seems so long ago, yet, for some, only yes?ter?day. The gov?ern?ment, to this day, still treat vet?er?ans with dis?dain with their han?dling and obfus?ca?tion of the Agent Orange scan?dal. I say a scan?dal because that is what it is. You need only ask any vet?eran about Agent Orange and they will tell you they weren?t just sprayed with it ? they were doused in it, they drank water soaked with it and were often wet to their socks with Agent Orange. Check out this photo of Nui Dat in 1966 . Every coun?try operating in Viet Nam at the time has acknowl?edged it hap?pened and com?pen?sated their vet?er?ans, yet New Zealand con?tin?ues to deny it occurred and con?tin?ues to hold spu?ri?ous enquiries. (The government has since said ?Sorry?, if it was at all possible to say sorry without actually saying the word, but for me it was too little, too late.)

Kevin didn?t want me to write any?thing about him but I insisted. He didn?t want me to make him out to be a hero. In his words, he was there, he was a gun?ner and that was all. Like most vet?er?ans he is intensely proud of his achieve?ments and, at the same time, intensely bit?ter at the way they were treated upon return?ing. It is high time that Kiwis were proud of what our guys did in Viet Nam; proud of their achieve?ments and proud of their for?ti?tude to fight. I admire any?one who has the gump?tion to stand up and be counted with their own life.

My father-in-law is a true ANZAC and some?one I am proud to know and love. I admire his achieve?ments. I remem?ber fondly the ANZAC Day we spent in Syd?ney 12 years ago. Aus?tralians cel?e?brate ANZAC Day while Kiwis com?mem?o?rate it. In Syd?ney, on that day, Kevin was proud to wear his medals and com?fort?able wear?ing them in the street. Syd?ney was one big party that day and we ate and drank pretty much for free wherever we went. Kids and adults alike pat?ted him on the back and shook his hand and called out ?good on ya mate.? The pity is that the same can?not be said of New Zealand. ANZAC Day is treated as a solemn occa?sion. Peo?ple do show their respects and con?tinue to show it by the increased atten?dances at parades all over the coun?try, but it is ‘respect’ as in at a funeral rather than respect as in admi?ra?tion.

It is high time New Zealand cel?e?brated the achieve?ments of our sol?diers and stopped com?mem?o?rat?ing them. ANZAC Day should be like it was in Syd?ney 12 years ago. It is cer?tainly a day I will not for?get.

A cou?ple of things remain for me to pass on to my chil?dren. They are vis?its to Gal?lipoli and to Viet Nam to show the kids where our rel?a?tives fought and shed blood so that they may never know war. Hope?fully, they will never know war as other gen?er?a?tions have.

In 2015 I ticked a visit to Gallipoli off my bucket list. Attending a service at the Long Tan Cross on an ANZAC Day remains on the list. I hope I can convince Skippy to come to Viet Nam to do it with me.

Lest we forget.