Losing a loved one in the Vietnam War was a terrible thing to happen to anyone. It causes changes and heartache that lasts a lifetime. The incredible grief of accepting the remains of a fallen hero is sometimes too hard to bear. Meeting and accepting the remains at an airport was a difficult obligation. Imagine if there were no remains returned for the grieving family to accept. It would make even more difficult putting the anguish and heartache behind.
For Australians killed in Vietnam the sad situation was made even worse due to the policy there that families had to pay for the remains to be returned home to Australia. Recently a total of 33 remains of Australians who died in Vietnam were scheduled to be brought home. The occurrence is written about in an article found in The Hawkesbury Gazette title: Remains of Vietnam War dead to return via Richmond RAAF Base Justine Doherty and Tim Barlass.
Doherty and Barless relate that “it’s been a very long time coming, but finally the remains of 33 Vietnam veterans and dependants are coming home – 50 years after they died. The remains will be flown into Richmond RAAF Base on Thursday, June 2 in two RAAF C17 Globemasters.” The Australian Department of Veterans Affairs said it will be one of the largest single repatriations of Australian service men and dependants in Australian history.
The article told the poignant story of the son of a fallen Australian Vietnam Veteran. The son’s name was Michael Bowtell, 55, of Orange. He related that when his father died in Vietnam his mother who had three children and one the way. The Army took away her housing assistance and then she was told she would have to pay 500 Australian Dollars to have his remains shipped home. She could not raise the money so her long lost husband was laid to rest in Malaysia but not his remains are coming home.