It's Vietnam Veterans Day
FOR PROUD former infantryman Trevor Pleace, Vietnam Veterans Day is an opportunity to celebrate the unique bond of sacrifice and service shared between former soldiers.
"There's nothing better to me than to be around servicemen ... I love them," he told The Northern Star yesterday.
Tomorrow he and several thousand other veterans will participate in marches across the country, including Lismore to honour almost 60,000 Australians who served in the 13-year conflict.
The day is the 46th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in which 18 Australians died. It was the most significant Australian engagement of the war in Vietnam.
Mr Pleace was drafted in 1970 and was among the last infantry reinforcements to go to Vietnam in 1971 before infantry operations formally ended in 1972.
He spent much of his time on patrols and ambushes before returning in March 1972 and stayed in the Army until 1977.
Reflecting on the aftermath of the war, he said remaining in the Army sheltered him from some of the vilification directed at returning soldiers.
"When we came home people said that we were the bad ones... we knew that we weren't," he said.
Secretary of the Far North Coast Sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association Sheldon Maher said it wasn't until 1987 that the public fully accepted Vietnam veterans.
"When the guys came back from the Second World War everyone was a hero. The Vietnam veterans had to fight the anti-war movement," Mr Maher said.
He said the vilification prevented many seeking the assistance and support they needed to reconcile their traumatic experiences.