Vietnam vets honour Long Tan anniversary
THE horrors of war, a 21st birthday that went uncelebrated and the after effects of life on the front-line - these were just some of the recollections from a Vietnam Veterans Day Service in Cannonvale today.
As a small amount of rain dropped from the skies over the Cenotaph, veteran Warren Laycock said it was an ironic way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
"It's this sort of weather we had in Vietnam," he said.
"You could set your clock on 3pm every day and it would rain. The monsoon weather at this time of year was really incredible. Lots of the time we'd be out bush and out trekking the VC or just going after the local guerrillas, you would be sweating like a pig and next minute it would be pouring rain, then five minutes later you'd be sweating again and then your clothes would be dry."
Private Laycock was only 20-years-old when he was sent to Vietnam, serving in 6th Battalion during their May 1969 to May 1970 tour.
Mr Laycock was stationed at Nui Dat, along with the rest of the infantry battalion and said besides the memories of rubber plantations and the rain, his best memories were returning to base.
"The good times would be in the boozer after being out on operation, coming back in after being out for sometimes three to four weeks depending on where we were," he said.
"I had my 21st birthday out bush in Vietnam so I never really had a 21st birthday party."
As for the combat, Mr Laycock said it was something he preferred not to remember.
"I was in a few contacts being an infantry soldier. The memories of those sort of things - I don't want to go there," he said.
Originally from Victoria, Mr Laycock's Battalion returned to Townsville and he decided to make the trek to the Whitsundays for the 50th anniversary.
"It's really great. The day's only begun (but) I will be talking to the guys about things that we've done," he said.
Mr Laycock was also honest about how much he had suffered when he returned home from service.
"I had copious amounts of problems when I did come home. I ended up being an alcoholic," he said.
"I haven't had a drink now for just on 15 years. My life has changed from that - from when I stopped drinking, I had really good support with my wife and a church."
Mr Laycock has since turned his life around and last year became a chaplain for Solider On Australia - a support network for returning service men and women who've been physically or mentally affected by their service.
"I'm supporting the younger veterans that are coming back now," he said.
"The story rolls on. If anybody tells you God isn't really here, he really is mate. I wouldn't be here today if hadn't been for him. That really got me through."
Today, the region will honour the 60,000 Australians who served in the Vietnam War, including the 521 who lost their lives.
Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated annually on 18 August, this year it marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said the Vietnam War was a defining period in Australian history.
"Today is an opportunity for veterans and the community to stand side-by-side, remembering the service and sacrifice of those who served in Vietnam," Mr Christensen said.
A National Service will be held at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra today, attended by the Governor-General, Prime Minister, other dignitaries, and over 400 veterans - including around 100 who fought during the Battle of Long Tan - and members of the Australian public.