WASHINGTON, March 7, 2011 — Noting Australia’s contributions alongside U.S. service members in the Vietnam War, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today welcomed an Australian gift that will enhance that war’s memorial here.
During a dedication ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, where Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced her nation would donate $3 million toward an education center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen cited the long relationship between Australia and the United States.
Some 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam, the chairman said, and 521 were killed.
“We remember Australians’ sacrifice as we do our own,” he said. “And this education center will remind future generations of Australians and Americans, and indeed every nation, about the sacrifices of all those who served in Vietnam.”
The United States and Australia share a strong affinity, historical roots, strong democratic institutions and cultures bolstered by immigrants hailing from lands around the globe, Mullen said. The two nations are the closest of allies, he added, fighting alongside each other in every conflict from World War I on.
“Since the Great White Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbor more than 100 years ago,” said Mullen, who served in Vietnam early in his career, “our militaries have likewise enjoyed a strong bond based on professionalism, courtesy and respect.”
Australia is the first government institution to contribute to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund toward the construction of the underground education center. Congress authorized the center in 2003. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1982, located just yards from the Lincoln Memorial.
The memorial lists the names of all Americans killed or missing during the Vietnam War. A native-born Australian’s name is etched on the memorial. John Louis Molyneaux Jr., whose name appears on Panel 45W, Row 15, served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marines Corps and died on Aug. 31, 1968, in Quang Nam province, South Vietnam.
“It symbolizes so much about the Vietnam era for both of our countries,” Gillard said. “To enter into, and [to] reflect within and emerge from the memorial, is an emotional journey for anyone.”
In a news release announcing the event, Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said Australia is the first government institution to donate to the education center, and the donation marks the center’s first foreign gift.
“The Australians were our steadfast allies during the Vietnam War,” Scruggs said. “We are gratified that the Australian people feel so deeply about helping us build the Education Center at The Wall to honor all who served and sacrificed during that war. We welcome their partnership once again in this important endeavor.”
Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey — who served in Vietnam and chairs the education center’s advisory board — also spoke at the ceremony.
“We’re going to build this exhibit and bring to life the memories of the 58,000 U.S. troops killed and the 300,000 wounded,” he said.
The Education Center at The Wall was conceived as a way to put faces to the thousands of names on the memorial and to educate current and future generations about the men and women who gave everything for their country, and to tell their stories, officials said.
Other exhibits will showcase some of the 150,000 items left at the memorial in tribute and will provide a timeline of events for the Vietnam War and the memorial’s construction, they added.
(Terri Moon Cronk of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
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