More than 150 people including a number of veterans gathered at Walsh Park, Bomaderry on Sunday, August 18 for the 2019 Shoalhaven Vietnam Veterans' Day commemorative service.
Hosted by the Shoalhaven Vietnam Veterans' Association, the service marks the 53rd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, which took place in a rubber plantation near Long Tan, in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam on August 18, 1966.
On that day 105 Australians and three New Zealanders faced off against an enemy force of more than 2000.
Eighteen of that combined Aussie/Kiwi force paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Shoalhaven Vietnam Veterans' Association president and life member Clyde Poulton conducted the service which included a reading and prayer by Salvation Army Captain Mathew Sutcliffe, various wreath laying, and a moving rendition of The Last Post and Reveille by legendary local bugler Peter Williams.
The address was presented by former Commander of the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro (Ret).
Mr Di Pietro spoke of the 18 personnel who were killed at Long Tan and of their previous "ordinary" professions.
Careers, he said, that could so easily be found within a couple of hundred metres from where Sunday's service was conducted.
He also spoke fondly about the mentoring and guidance he received as a young flyer when first posted to HMAS Albatross in 1976 by many of the navy helicopter pilots from Albatross who had served in Vietnam.
"They were great mentors, great teachers and went on to be great friends," he said.
"What they taught us was invaluable."
Mr Di Petro said one of the most rewarding aspects of his near 40 year career in the RAN, was in the last three or four months of his tenure as COMFAA when he was able to conduct a number of special presentations to Australian personnel who flew in the Vietnam War as door gunners with US forces.
They were recognised and presented with special Gunner's wings.
The servicemen flew with the US Army's 135th Assault Helicopter Company Experimental Military Unit (EMU), many without formal or recognised training or category.