United States Tour –
May – November, 2000
Derek Walsh served a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Rifleman/Intelligence Dutyman with the 8th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. After his stint was over he went back to his vocation as an advertising artist and illustrator until 1990. When he found he was unable to work any longer, Derek returned to his love of art and after a number of years and an even greater number of paintings, he embarked on his dream and called it "Touched by Fire" – the Australian Experience in Vietnam.
"Touched by Fire", an original artwork in oils, is a ‘mural’ chronologically depicting Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. It features portraits of the 500 plus men and women, both military and civilian, who were killed whilst on active service or supporting our forces in Vietnam.
"Touched by Fire" will be a lasting memorial dedicated to the memory of those who gave the supreme sacrifice, and indeed all who served in the Vietnam War. It will become a significant contribution to the as yet incomplete historical records relating to the service of veterans in the sixties and early seventies.
Featured in the artwork are many images and memorabilia that will be readily recognized by most veterans and that will provide the civilian of any age group with insights into the ‘Digger’s’ very different way of life ‘over there.’
The significant outcomes of the presentation of "Touched by Fire" will be to:
Promote the respect and standing of veterans within the community.
Ensure younger generations are reminded of the sacrifices of veterans, the reality of war and the need to avoid such conflict in the future.
Raise community awareness of significant military historic events.
Develop greater awareness of entitlements and services provided to the veteran community.
Derek Walsh invited the VVnW, Inc.–Australia to manage his project. When the VVnW realized the potential of the opportunity offered, they agreed. They were proud to have been chosen to manage and direct this project and are enthusiastic about bringing it to the attention of the world.
After discovering that several veterans had been buried in paupers’ graves, the VVnW in conjunction with Blackwell Funerals, put together a project called the Veterans Burial Trust Fund.
This Fund was put into place to ensure that a dignified burial for Australian, New Zealand and Allied Forces veterans living in Australia, would be guaranteed. In a case where the veteran has no family and no funds, the Veterans Burial Trust Fund will work with the Funeral Home, a DVA representative and a representative of the VVnW, Inc. to be sure of a dignified burial for an individual who served his/her country when called. The fund will be the major beneficiary of the "Touched by Fire" Project.
Derek Walsh, Project Artist/Designer; Peter Forbes, VVnW Australia Commander and Executive Director; David Lean, Director, Veterans Burial Trust Fund; Lloyd Stevens, Committee Chairman; Kenny Laughton, author of Not Quite Men No Longer Boys; Jeff Carn, Committee, Strategic Planning and DVA; Graeme Searle; Graham Bridgland; Alyn McCullock; Geoff Banks, DVA; Peter Haran; and David Ogilvy will be traveling to the United States in May, 2000 for the "Touched by Fire" official U.S. opening. The Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. will host their visit.
The tentative agenda begins on Thursday, May 25 during the Rolling Thunder POW/MIA Awareness motorcycle run in Washington, D.C. The run usually hosts 135,000 attendees. The exhibit will be in Washington until May 30 and the Australians will also participate in the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremonies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – the Wall as well as at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
They will then move on to Annapolis, Maryland for a one-day stop. The Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee will host the exhibit for the weekend of June 2, 3 and 4th. Visits to Ohio and New York are under consideration.
The experience of touring the U.S. with this "Touched by Fire" Project – the Australian Experience in Vietnam will be unusual, but we are sure that American veterans will receive this heartfelt offering of Australian veterans with the utmost respect.
For additional information on the tour details or if you would like to have the exhibit come to your area during its time in the U.S. between May and November, 2000, contact VVnW National Headquarters at 1-800-VIETNAM or e-mail [email protected].
Photograph: Bob Innes – "Desert Dreams"
August 4 - 17, 2000
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum
23 - 30, 2000
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(c) copyright 1999
Veterans of the Vietnam War, Australia, Managers