Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Lest we forget…. ALL consequences of war

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Today marks the 41st anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, the most well-known battle fought by Australians during the Vietnam War. I attended the service this morning at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Anzac Parade. As always it’s an interesting show of military precision and political rhetoric. One one level, one can’t help but be moved by the eloquence of the proceedings and the understanding of the sacrifice that participants of the war – on all sides – endured. On the other hand, for those who have been directly or indirectly affected by the impact and reality of war – I speak here of veterans as well as their families – perhaps the heroic glossing over of history and the stark reality of the impact of political gameplay rang a little hollow. As the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the former spouse of a peace-keeper, I couldn’t help but feel a little cynical with the sanitised content (and zealot religious tone) of some of the speeches/songs. Then again, I’ve never been exposed to war but I have experienced and witnessed the after-effects of it on both individuals and communities. Thus it is from this latter perspective – notwithstanding the fact that I am a pacifist – that I speak.Nevertheless, I still find these occasions fascinating. Watching the media scurry to film/photograph/interview the military and political elite is always bizarre. I guess my sympathies lie more with those men and women who have survived their experiences as well as their traumas. I’m also intrigued by the absolute rules and precision of all things military. Timing is everything (as this morning’s helicopter fly-overs demonstrated) and I admit, it’s always impressive, if not a little creepy. And we mustn’t forget the regalia – from medals to badges and lanyards etc…. it’s all there shiny, well-loved and on display, advertising the sense of pride, belonging and perhaps even regret these soldiers must feel. And why shouldn’t they? After all they have paid the supreme sacrifice for events that some versions of history and hindsight suggest were regrettable.

Conjecture aside, I am proud and fond of my friends many of whom I have met through the Vietnam Veterans Federation (VVF). Despite some gaps with politics, generation and even culture, they are good and solid people.

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Remembering the Fallen

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Veterans reflect during a reading of a Prayer for Peace 

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National Pride

For about 6 months now I’ve been somewhat blocked as to how I wanted to sequence the photographs that I’d taken of the vets. I didn’t feel like these portraits told the stories that I wanted them to. I admit it didn’t help when Jon Rhodes proffered his opinion of them as being boring (which despite Martyn’s like of them, I had to agree with). However I think that I’m nearing a break-through – of sorts – enough at least to pick up where I left off. I’ll be catching up with the ladies (“Shirl the girl”, being their larger-than-life matron) next Friday. Also on the books is looking at the other side of the conflict from a Vietnamese perspective. I have met a few veterans from the Vietnamese side of the conflict who are now residing in Australia. I am looking very forward to hearing their stories as well.

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Written by Lee Grant

August 18, 2007 at 5:53 pm

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