The Welcome Home Parade in Sydney in 1987 was such a success, and is held in such high regard in the hearts of most Vietnam
veterans and their families, that it seems inconceivable that there was a time when it may not have happened. The fact remains
however, that it started as an idea in the minds of a very few people, and those few had to put in a great deal of hard work
to ensure that the idea would spread.
I have received a number of inquiries asking me when I will be getting on with this
story. The answer is simply "as soon as I can". There are several reasons why I was able to put the earlier parts of
the Welcome Home Parade story on my website so quickly. I had plenty of spare time as I waited for my transfer from the
University of Western Australia to the Australian National University to come through. I was teaching myself to build a website,
so I needed the practice. Also, I had my own memory and my own photographs to help me. The story from here on is different.
After returning from Chicago in July 1986, and taking a little time to recover from
the experience and work out what it all meant to us and to other Australian Vietnam veterans, the "Chicago Six" began thinking
about the task of putting on a Welcome Home Parade in Sydney. We knew we would have public support, because of the response
we had received from our appearances on The Midday Show. What we needed was support from the veteran community.
We had to start from scratch however, because although some of us were active in veterans' organisations, as far as lobbying
for a Welcome Home Parade was concerned we were just six individuals. We had no right to expect that the leaders of the various
organisations that represented Vietnam veterans would necessarily be keen to talk to us.
To cut a long story short (because the full story will be told at another time), by October we
had enough people interested to organise a meeting. A steering committee was formed on the 19th of October, and a meeting
was scheduled for the 9th of November at Anzac House, Sydney. At that first meeting, Peter Poulton was elected as
Chairman, and I was elected as Secretary. Other members elected onto the committee were: Gary Boulter; Pat Curtis; Warren
Darlington; Terry Doyle; Bob Gibson; Jim Husband; Fred Hyland; Hugh McFerran; Bob Moore; Bob Rogers, and John Wilson.
Others who attended that first meeting included Sir Colin Hines and Geoff Sutton from
the NSW Branch of the RSL, Mike George, Noel Selway, Colin Davis, Ray Ashton, Mick Scrase, Robert Dodds, and Des Arthur. Organisations
represented at the meeting included the NSW Branch of the RSL, the national office, NSW Branch and Illawarra Sub-Branch of
the VVAA, the Regular Defence Forces Welfare Association, Dubbo and North Bondi RSL Sub-Branches, Blue Mountains Vietnam Veterans,
17 Construction Squadron Association and the Newcastle Branch of the Vietnam Legion.
It was later in November 1986 that the veteran community was rocked by the death of
Phill Thompson, National President of the VVAA. Phill's death had a profound impact on me personally. As National Secretary
of the VVAA I had worked with Phill for several years, and for part of that time Phill and I had lived at the VVAA national
headquarters, in order to keep it going 24 hours a day. My own health and other aspects of my private life were not going
well at this time, and I decided to leave Sydney and take some time to get my head together. So I departed shortly after the
December meeting of the Welcome Parade Committee. When I reached Perth, I decided that I wanted to stay. Western Australia
seemed to be good for my health and my general wellbeing. The Welcome Home Parade Committee kept my position open until I
sent them a letter of resignation in about February or March 1987 (I will check that date later). Jack Mitchell was elected
as the new Secretary, a position he held throughout the remaining preparations for the Parade in October 1987.
Because I was in Western Australia and no longer close to the action in Sydney, the
remaining story of the Welcome Home Parade is not as easy for me to tell as the earlier parts. Rest assured however, that
this is a task I intend to tackle in the near future.