Remembering Vietnam and friends who never came home
A SMALL humble group gathered outside the Casino RSM Club to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day on Sunday.
For Rod Coe it was connecting with a past he loved and people he came to know well.
The Casino man served for 20 years and spent 1971-72 in Vietnam as a regular soldier.
He was barely 19 when he left Australia to fight in the war.
"You sleep and live with people for a year, they're like a family,” the 68-year-old said.
"Even 50 years later, you're looking to see these people.”
The day was about more than reconnecting to the past - it was to remember those who died.
"To the soldiers it is important,” Mr Coe said.
"People were killed and friends were lost.”
The hardest part of the war was returning home.
"You disintegrated into the community.”
The turnaround of the public's negative attitude to Vietnam veterans came in 1987 when there was a special march in Sydney.
"The crowds were were 20 people deep. People who had served broke down.”
For Robyn Spruce's husband Norm, that recognition couldn't come soon enough.
He returned from fighting in Malaya and two weeks later was sent to Vietnam.
When Norm heard about the Sydney march, he sat on the floor and cried his eyes out, Ms Spruce said.
Every Vietnam Veterans Day, Ms Spruce is in Casino wearing Norm's medals.
"It's important to honour his memory, for me, his family and his friends,” she said.
The ceremony outside the club was led by Owen Newell and the emotion of day was felt as the Last Post played from a portable cassette player.
Mr Coe and Ms Spruce had seen the film Danger Close - The Battle of Long Tan and recommended seeing it to understand the war.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Battle of Long Tan is the most publicised Australian battle of the Vietnam War. In a decade-long war that, for the most part, consisted of small contacts with an enemy that was reluctant to engage in pitched battles, Long Tan was an exception.
The catalyst for it was the Viet Cong attack on Australia's Nui Dat base.