AWARD-WINNING author Barry Heard called for Australia to apologise for shunning its Vietnam veterans at a commemorative service in Horsham yesterday.
Record crowds braved the blustery conditions for the Vietnam Veterans Day service at a sodden Sawyer Park.
Guest speaker Mr Heard, who penned the memoir Well Done, Those Men, told the crowd that Vietnam veterans were different from other returned servicemen.
"The ordeal we went through during the war and then afterwards was appalling," he said. "I think this country should almost stand up and say sorry.
"The only reason we have this day, when all the others are remembered on Anzac Day, is because we were shunned we weren't allowed to march with other veterans and we couldn't join the RSL."
Mr Heard said television coverage of the Vietnam War the longest conflict Australia has participated in shocked the nation.
"There were shots of women running naked down the street and people being shot in the head on television it was the first time people really saw war," he said.
"We were the first Australian soldiers who people ever thought were bad."
Mr Heard cut his speech short as the crowd of about 75 people huddled under Sawyer Park's shade sail in an attempt to escape the elements.
"It is sad that we even have to have a Vietnam Veterans Day but it is good to remember," he said. "I love young people today because they don't see it as being about glory but they just see it as a sad day."
Mr Heard served in the 7 Royal Australian Regiment, or the 7th Battalion, with Horsham man John 'Finny' Finn.
Mr Finn said Vietnam veterans shared a unique bond.
"It is fantastic to have Barry in Horsham because we served together in Vietnam," he said.
"I have played footy, other sports and was involved in rock and roll but there is no closer bond than between Vietnam veterans."