Laying the wreaths at Cooroy's Anzac Day ceremony 2018
Laying the wreaths at Cooroy's Anzac Day ceremony 2018 Alan Lander

Virgin's veteran plans reveal real battles


I HAD a pretty interesting conversation with a Vietnam veteran earlier this week.

He rang me out of the blue to vent after Virgin Australia's plans to salute veterans with priority boarding and public recognition sparked some heated debate a few days ago.

The plan involved salutes to veterans being made publicly prior to take-off with in-flight announcements and would be offered first crack at seating on the plane.

In the days since the ideas were floated Virgin has confirmed it will consult with community groups and defence force personnel, after some pretty strong backlash.

This veteran, who didn't want to be identified, fearing a public lashing, was absolutely appalled at the idea.

He said there was no way he would even consider boarding a plane ahead of other passengers, just because he was a veteran.


Other high profile veterans have echoed that sentiment this week.

It struck me as a pretty strong statement.

This is a bloke who, along with thousands of other soldiers, were treated horrendously by the Australian public when they returned from Vietnam.

These soldiers were following orders.

They never chose to go over there. But they were ostracised for their efforts, the effects of that public shame still devastating to many so many decades later.

A part of me thought, if I'd been through that, I'd consider it the very least the public could do for me.

But then this veteran, a funny old bloke full of self-deprecation, continued to make some excellent points to me.

For a start, he said, the best thing any airline could do for him would be to increase the leg room.

A tall man, he said it took him a good 15-20 minutes to regain feeling after flights these days.

But his other main gripes, and I'm sure he's not the only one, were with the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

He said the Department simply didn't want to help these guys.

The nation's love of veterans shone on a few days of the year, but when they were over he said they went back to being burdens on DVA staff.

That must be a terrible feeling.

To have gone to a foreign country, put your life on the line for a nation full of strangers, and then be made to feel like you're a problem by a bunch of pen pushers.

This bloke reckoned the wait for a DVA Gold Card, which covers all clinically required health care treatment at the expense of the Department, was another bitter pill to swallow.

He had to wait until he was 70 before he could receive his Gold Card, and couldn't understand why veterans were forced to hold out for support.

They were pretty timely sentiments as Remembrance Day approaches.

The battles continue for many of our returned servicemen and women years after they return home.