Image for The Vietnam experience

First published as comment on this article: My Vietnam War captures the danger of Vietnam, the mateship bonded under fire, and the crushing disappointment of returning to a country that despised them

Lindsay, thanks for posting that. Amazing how attitudes to our country changes over the years. We were very naive young Australian soldiers, fully believing that we were imperilled by the so-called Domino Theory - the communist march in South East Asia. I am trying to find some stats to post for the record. That of all wars, the combat Vietnam Veteran spent more time in one year in hostile territory than any other soldier from all countries served in four years.

There is still a tendency for we vets to be avoided,as we really do suffer the pariah stigma, but we do have that amazing cameraderie, forged in jungles and rice paddies, where all about were young men, all in jungle green who had interdependence of reliance on one another.

Our enemy was not just rifles, mines and mortar, but also ancient booby-traps, stakes smeared with faeces…and a Vietnamese ally that hunted with the pack and ran with the fox.

I spent my 22nd birthday doing sentry duty and on operations a helicopter landed on a hill. I was told to pack my bags ‘you’re going home’. Elated that my time had expired, I was allowed one telegram from BHQ and that said, ‘coming home, details later’.

Qantas went on strike refusing to land in a war zone without danger-pay and I was sent back on another operation, without any way of communicating with my 19 year-old-wife. I had got married in case I was KIA, as was one mate before I got to Vietnam, Tony Purcell. At least my wife would be a war-widow and be looked after.

Eventually we boarded the Flying Kangaroo and landed in Sydney just after dawn, too early for demonstrators. I had made arrangements for my family to be at Launceston airport for my arrival. A message came over the Sydney Airport loud speaker that Tasmanian soldiers would not be flown to Melbourne, without paying for their flight, otherwise they’d have to free-travel by train.

My mates chucked in and made up the $20 air-fare and I eventually got home on time…and never paid back the loan.

Years passed and the hordes intellectualised the Vietnam War and threw red paint at returning soldiers and I took refuge in poetry and loved Tennyson’s Morte de’ Arthur where the king said ‘a little thing would harm a wounded man.’

Today I listen to the pacifists and know that one day Australia will allow itself with its largesse in human compassion to become vulnerable and we will come under attack from within.

And we will put aside our bitterness and our hurt, if we are able, put on our old jungle-greens and ask for our guns back…and stand to!

If necessary we will enter the universities where most of our hurt originated, and put our lives on the line to rescue the academics and the students, being held-hostage by the very people they opened the gates to. It’s what being a soldier for Australia is all about.

Damn, that would make a hell of a movie. Thanks for posting the book Linz, it will end up in my bookshelf.