Though the physical and emotional scars linger for many, hundreds of Vietnam veterans, their families and friends will commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day across Queensland on Saturday (18 August).
Almost 60,000 Australian Defence personnel served in Vietnam from 1962-1972, with 521 lives lost and more than 3,000 wounded.
Former-RAAF helicopter pilot Bob Grandin, who lives at Buderim on the Sunshine Coast, was just three days shy of his 26th birthday when the infamous Battle of Long Tan took place.
“The artillery started going off towards the end of a concert,” Mr Grandin remembered.
“We’d ferried the musicians up, including Col Joye and Little Patti, and were taking them back but the barrage was much heavier than usual, so we knew something was going on.
“We volunteered to fly ammunition in for our troops but could see a huge storm coming. By the time we got to the rubber plantation where the fighting was, the rain was so heavy we couldn’t see a thing ahead of us or out the sides of the aircraft.
“We were fully-laden with gunners, crew and ammo and I was certain we were going to get hit… The thing you live with, after you’ve been through something like that, is just how fragile – how frail – life is.”
Initially commemorating the 1966 Battle of Long Tan, when 106 Australian and New Zealand soldiers withstood and ultimately repelled a sustained attack by more than 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, the day now represents the courage and sacrifice of all Australians who served in Vietnam.
RSL Queensland President Tony Ferris said Mr Grandin’s bravery was typical of the Australian efforts.
“While it was a contentious conflict at the time, the Australian community has come to recognise the enormous courage of so many men like Bob,” Mr Ferris said.
“I hope Queenslanders will make time this Saturday to join their local RSL Sub Branch for Vietnam Veterans Day commemorative services or just take some time to reflect on the price paid by so many to serve our country.”