Reflect and Respect
Thank you, Wayne and Mr Mal Fergusson, President of the RSL Tea Tree Gully branch for the occasion to share our Vietnamese culture with you all tonight.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’d like to share a poem written by Mr Charles M Province in 1970, as time passed has not changed its relevance.
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organiser
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
©Copyright 1970, 2005 by Charles M. Province
Three weeks ago on the 46th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on 30/4/1975, an incident occurred in NSW. An international student desecrated this very same Yellow flag by tearing it down, trampling on and kicking it around, while verbally slandering our community. As a younger generation of Vietnamese Australian veterans and boat people, this individual’s actions were disgraceful and not only hurtful to our community but also to Australian veterans who served alongside our veterans and the 521 Australian servicemen that perished on foreign soil in exchange for other’s freedom.
A war lost or won doesn’t stop when the flag is raised on enemy grounds or when you come home.
Those of us who have not served will never fully understand the sacrifices you’ve made in times of peace and of war.
We will never fully understand what you were required to do or how you were able to do it.
We will never fully understand the depths of your scars or what your loved ones at home had to endure.
What we can offer you is that we see you, we are willing to listen and to learn so that we can ensure Australia remains free and your sacrifices and struggles were not in vain.
Freedom can’t be passed through the bloodstream and, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”, as once said by Ronald Reagan.
We were only able to share our culture with you today thanks to you, your comrades, those on active duty, discharged, retired or in reserve and Australia’s kindness in receiving our displaced parents and grandparents.
Every soldier, past or present, living or laid to rest, is a hero no matter what role you played. There are no big words that can describe your selflessness or our community’s gratitude. Thank you for welcoming us to your RSL this evening.
A final word tonight to my fellow friends and rising generation:
We are in the honourable presence of these incredible people who wrote blank cheques “made payable to Australia”, for an amount of “up to and including his or her life”, and here with people whose loved ones gave up their youth, their families, their routine, their love for Australia’s security for our motherland.
Their sacrifice, courage and honour are immeasurable. They have done their part to give us the opportunity of a brighter future, so let’s make it our responsibility to safeguard this freedom that was not free, for generations to come.
VCA/SA Vice President for Planning
22 May 2021