The Premier of Victoria, John Brumby met with a group of Greek Australian Vietnam veterans on Thursday and was presented with Greek Australians in the Vietnam War, a book prepared by Vietnam veteran Steve Kyritsis.
The book is a compilation of oral histories in Greek and in English, from over 30 veterans of Greek background who served in Vietnam. 128 Greek Australians in total served in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1972.
“It took me over four years to bring together, It was not easy to get the veterans to join in,” said Mr Kyritsis.
He thanked the veterans for taking part in the book and expressed his gratitude towards George Lekakis the Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission who supported the project, and added, “We are proud as Greeks to have served in the Australian Defence Force.”
While many veterans were conscripted Mr Kyritsis underscored that others enlisted and were career soldiers like Peter Diamond, who saw 20 years service in the Australian Army.
“I served twice in Vietnam in 1965 and 1970. It does not matter if you are conscript or a regular soldier in Vietnam. We were all doing our duty,” added Mr Kyritsis.
Mr Kyritsis concluded by saying, “If there is one good thing that came out of the Vietnam War, it was the friendships. We were mates and we will always be mates.”
The Premier was visibly moved in his reply, “My father saw service in the WWII and he kept up with all his mates right through. This book will strengthen the friendships and bonds you have established as brothers in arms,” said the Premier.
Mr Brumby said, “I think the history of the Vietnam War is an important one to document, we have not had a book like this one before. The fact that this has been written in Greek and in English is such a unifying thing.”
He pointed to the bitter debate over the war “back home” and the fact that veterans came back to face hostility. “It was not that easy for our veterans when they came home.”
The Premier suggested that “by tackling the history and relating it to the real people like those surveyed here which is all of you,” is a way of dealing with a past.
“I think this is such an important contribution to our history, and you fought for our freedoms,” Premier Brumby said highlighting, “The Greek community’s sense of pride, it is a proud community.
“I was recently with the community on Greek National Day at the Shrine of Remembrance where thousands of Greek Australians marched to commemorate the struggle for freedom.”
The head of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, George Lekakis, said, “When Steve (Kyritsis) came to me I thought of my father as a soldier in the Greek Army during WWII and the importance of recognising the contribution of these Greek Australians.”
“It is a great book with gripping stories. Some are very raw and with honest feelings. It is an excellent primary historical source” added Mr Lekakis.