A group of Vietnam veterans marched through the central business district on Tuesday after being granted the freedom of the city by mayor Peter Cox and Inspector Peter Greaney.
The ceremony coincided with the tenth reunion of the 17 Construction Squadron Workshop in what Bendigo District RSL president Cliff Richards said was a first for a non-serving unit.
“A freedom of the city parade is normally granted to current serving military troops or organisations and the troops are granted freedom to parade through the city with arms,” he said.
“That military unit is challenged by the police and the mayor as to why they wish to enter the city and they’re granted freedom of the city to proceed with their march.”
As part of the ceremony, Bendigo South East College student Corinne Harris read a requiem she had largely composed herself.
The requiem touched on the challenges and sacrifice of war.
“My thoughts extend to thinking about your families, enduring the unknown,” Corinne said.
“I wonder what it would have been like to be at home with the constant stress of wondering how you are and how you’re faring.
“We remember those who made the supreme sacrifice, (those who) came home physically or mentally injured, and those who have since passed on.”
Mr Richards, who served with the 17CSW, said he had been moved by her words.
“I’ve had so many comments from our members about how well Corinne spoke, and the fact that there was a lot of her content in that Anzac requiem was very moving, especially coming from a younger person,” he said.
“That the requiem was constructed by a younger person makes Vietnam seem a little bit more worthwhile.”
Cr Cox said it was a great honour to welcome the 17CSW to Bendigo.
“There was no way in which I was going to refuse you to the city and I hold you all in the highest regard,” he said.
The ceremony was timed to coincide with the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the 17CSW’s deployment to Vietnam.