Vietnam veterans are
our heroes too.
Chris Rothery explains
There's no doubt that there was an injustice done to
the returning Vietnam Veterans. Many of those people who went to serve
in Vietnam, had no choice. When you join the Army, it's one of the protocols
of the Army that if you are ordered to do foreign service, you will
do it. However because we had conscription there were many people who
were conscripted into the army who felt their whole philosophy had been
compromised. They didn't want to go to Vietnam, but they didn't want
to break the law. They went because they were told to go.
Those people, when they came back from Vietnam, were treated very shabbily.
Australia didn't want to know them because the media had produced such
an anti-Vietnam feeling. When the soldiers came back home they were
flown back in civilian 707's late at night; they were unloaded at Sydney
Airport on the far side of the International terminal and then bused
out in civilian buses in civilian clothing and then told to just disappear.
By comparison, soldiers from the Second World War came back as heroes,
they came back as people to be looked up to and respected. This is the
way that I grew up, looking up to my father in particular and my uncles
and aunts who'd all served in different theatres of the Second World
With Vietnam it was a complete turnaround. You didn't even say that
you'd been to Vietnam because it provoked such hostile feelings in social
Many people came back from Vietnam quite traumatised and weren't able
to work through that trauma. Now thirty years later we're seeing that
it has manifested itself into all sorts of problems with family breakdowns,
suicides, people not being able to hold jobs and so on.
Those innocent people who were conscripted and sent over there, many
of them now suffering from the effects of Agent Orange and other harmful
chemicals. It's only been in the last five or so years that Australia
has begun to forgive, or at least be a little more mature about what
happened in Vietnam and to accept that this group of people went across
there because they were told they had to.
Many of them didn't want to do that but they had a job to do; they were
in the army and they did what they thought was the right thing at the
time and many of them have lived with that guilt. If they had been given
the choice, many of them would not have gone.
On the other side, I know lot of my other colleagues who loved Vietnam.
They loved the gun stuff, they loved the fighting and the hard and fast
living. I suppose that I'm a frustrated Anzac really.