Vietnam veteran’s legacy will live on

A VIETNAM war veteran who survived the Battle of Long Tan and Operation Bribie has died aged 71.

Graham Montgomery Vibert, of Morwell, died on 5 June following a long battle with an asbestos-related illness.

But his legacy will live on, with Graham making one last contribution to the veteran community.

The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia has received $3672 in Graham’s honour – a final fundraising effort achieved with the assistance of the Latrobe Valley community.

The state association received an additional $400 in his name.

At 21 years Graham was sent to Vietnam where he served for 10 months, including the mop up of the Battle of Long Tan.

On 17 February 1967 he fought in Operation Bribie with the 6th Battalion, where eight Australians – one of whom was Morwell’s Adrian Rich – were killed.

Graham was hit with machine gun blasts to his back and thigh in the battle and was mistakenly reported in local media as deceased.

However, he survived with mostly flesh wounds and after a stint in a Vietnam hospital returned home.

He met wife Francis at a Traralgon dance and the pair married in October 1971.

They raised two children – Dale and Leigh.

Francis said Graham refused to talk about war, “in his own words he would say, ‘I put the war behind me'”.

Working long hours selling life insurance “to forget the war”, it wasn’t until Leigh undertook a writing project that the veteran begin to embrace his past.

“Dad’s journey in the last 10 years since then was very much about helping the community,” Leigh said.

The pair connected and undertook a number of projects together to commemorate his fellow comrades, the last of which was his final donation to the veterans’ association.

Speaking at a memorial service held at the Traralgon RSL last week, VVAA Victorian branch president Bob Elworthy spoke of a man who was “not a victim, but a survivor and achiever in all he did”.

“(This final donation) is seeing the end of a very productive life in a very productive way,” Bob said.

“Graham’s legacy will be used in a very special way.”