Those few New Zealanders who experienced combat in Vietnam at first hand were left with a searing legacy. New Zealand's Vietnam veterans, like their Australian and American counterparts, have had to adjust to various problems associated with fighting in an unpopular war. There has been much resentment within their ranks at perceived official and public indifference to the physical and psychological problems experienced by so many veterans as a result of alleged exposure to Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress disorders. Another source of bitterness has been the sense that, unlike Second World War veterans, they were not accorded adequate recognition for serving their country with considerable professionalism in a demanding theatre of battle.
In recent years, there has been greater official sensitivity to these concerns, reflected in government assistance to Vietnam Parade 1998, a national reunion and march of veterans in Wellington in June 1998. Vietnam veterans were gratified by the generally favourable public reception of this event, though some relatively low-key protests by anti-war activists illustrated the continuing controversy generated by the war.
For information about the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding, the 2008 government apology to Vietnam veterans and the Tribute 08 celebration see the related fact sheet and Tribute 08 activity page.
Such divisiveness has lingered because the debate precipitated by the Vietnam War was not merely about a tragic conflict in a distant Asian country or the correctness of American policy, but brought to prominence competing visions of the role New Zealand should play in the world. In that sense, New Zealand's Vietnam involvement was most significant as the catalyst for a larger ongoing debate about the relationship between national identity, national security, and 'independence' in foreign policy.