Kiwi Vietnam War veterans finally honoured, 50 years on

Thirty-two Vietnam War veterans are being honoured with Special Service Awards this week, 50 years after they fought in the war.

It's seen as one of the final gestures from the Government, which has in the past been blamed for ignoring their service.

It's almost 50 years since Bill Teller arrived home from Vietnam. On Thursday, he finally received formal recognition for his exceptional bravery on the front-line.

"I'm usually a shorts and singlets guy, but here I am all scrubbed up," Mr Teller told Newshub.  

The former Lance Corporal was 'Mentioned in Despatches' and recognised for bravery during the war. Mr Teller says he's honoured after reflecting on what he gave up to serve.

"I had my 21st birthday in a fox hole in Vietnam, and you look back now and there were a few things that I missed out on."

The move to recognise the men was spearheaded by former serviceman Bob Davies.

He says when a group of civilian entertainers was honoured by an investiture in 2014, he had to act.

"If they're going to do it for civilians who go to play music, they better do it for people who put their life on the line," Mr Davies said. 

When soldiers arrived home from Vietnam, the response was painful. Protesters followed them, some were labelled "baby-killers", and many went into hiding.

The Government was blamed for ignoring their needs and service. For Defence Minister Ron Mark, this was an emotional day and a long time coming.

"Over recent years, I think we've moved to try correct some of those wrongs, to redress the errors and apologise," Mr Mark told Newshub.

In 2008, the Government did formally move to honour the veterans with a ceremony called 'Tribute08'. But for many, feelings of frustration still linger.

"And they've never actually satisfied people like myself - I think the New Zealand Government has got a long way to go," Mr Teller said. 

They may still have years of righting wrongs left, but he says this is definitely a start.