War not over for Vietnam vets
VIETNAM veteran Darryl Clifford can remember being on point duty, alone with a machinegun at night in the depths of the tropical jungle in 1971, not knowing whether enemy fighters were hiding in the dark ready to attack.
Yesterday he said it wasn't until he sought help years after his return that he realised just how much the horror of war had affected his life and relationships.
“At the time, you didn't realise how terrifying it was,” Mr Clifford, of Casino, said. “When you came home it was still there, but you didn't know it,” he said. “It was only after I went to a clinic that I found out how it was affecting my life.”
Mr Clifford, who celebrated his 22nd birthday in the jungles of Vietnam, was a National Serviceman whose number came up in the ballot.
He was one of the 60,000 Australian men and women who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 - Australia's longest military commitment.
More than 500 died in the war, while more than 3000 were injured.
Others have since died from war-related injuries or conditions, while still more succumb to the physical and emotional stresses caused by the war.
It wasn't until 1987 that Australia's Vietnam veterans were recognised with a 'home-coming' march, when 15,000 veterans marched through the streets of Sydney.
Mr Clifford, who served as a mechanic towards the end of the war with the 5th Company Workshop, RAASC, won't be marching with his comrades today for Vietnam Veteran's Day in Lismore. As usual he will attend a ceremony at the Casino RSM Club on Tuesday.
He said the biggest problem returned servicemen faced was battling government bureaucracy to get their entitlements.
“You think you have all the forms right, but then a doctor you have only seen for five minutes rejects it. Then you have to mess around with a review before getting what you are entitled too,” he said.
Sheldon Maher, of the Vietnam Veterans' Federation, said the day was held in Lismore on the closest Saturday to August 18. “It is an opportunity to honour those Australians who served during the Vietnam War and remember those who did died,” he said.
The Lismore march starts in front of the old Post Office at 5pm.
Veterans and their families can contact a counselling service at any time on 1800 011 046.