The Tribute08 ceremony acknowledging the NZ Vietnam Veterans was an emotional and poignent event .. the photographs of the 37 soldiers killed in the conflict were taken one by one from the easels (shown in the WDP a couple of days ago)and carried by family members up the steps into parliament to lie in State in the Legislative Chamber. This Queen's Birthday weekend has been a welcoming home for all the NZ military who served in Vietnam .. some 40 years ago.
The Defence Force has continued with the apologies to Vietnam veterans, admitting that it let the soldiers down and did not do enough to help them and their families after the war.
Some of the 1000 veterans and family members were moved to tears when chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae delivered a heartfelt speech at the Basin Reserve yesterday.
It followed an apology from the Crown last week which was formally accepted by veterans yesterday.
"I would simply ask for your forgiveness for our shortcomings in the past. I apologise for the impact these shortcomings have had on you and your families," General Mateparae said.
"You served loyally, you served with honour and I pledge my determination to correct the failings of the past.
"I know it is long overdue, but to our New Zealand Vietnam veterans - welcome home."
He said the armed forces were like a family, bound together by a common set of values and a culture that reflected the national heritage and character.
"It is clear that many Vietnam veterans believe that the [Defence Force] has not lived up to these ideals."
General Mateparae invited the Vietnam veterans back into the family, but he said he understood if there was hesitation to accept such an embrace.
"There can be little doubt that you were let down after you returned from the war, and across subsequent decades. I am unequivocal in saying the Defence Force did not do enough to assist you.
"Having been placed in harm's way, you arrived back to unwarranted derision. Most people cannot start to imagine how you must have felt."
The ceremony also included a tri-service guard of honour, a 37-gun salute, performances by the New Zealand army and air force bands as well as a flypast by the air force.
On Saturday, an honour parade was held through central Wellington.
The veterans and their families marched from Civic Square to Parliament where they were greeted by Prime Minister Helen Clark.