40 years after Long Tan Vietnam Vets still learning how to cope
By CRAIG McTEAR
WHEN he returned from duty in Vietnam in 1967, Kevin Smith wanted to put the whole ordeal behind him.
"I came home and pulled the blind down on Vietnam," the Coffs Harbour 61-year-old said.
"Now, I'm learning how to cope with it and come out of my shell."
Kevin spoke on the eve of Vietnam Veterans' Day today, when Diggers will gather to remember the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
Sadly, 18 Australian troops died and 24 others were wounded in the battle.
Sawtell's Lyle Rose Memorial Park will be the focus for commemorations today at 5.30pm, in a ceremony hosted by the Coffs Harbour and District Association of Vietnam and South-East Asia Veterans.
Brisbane's Ted Baulch, 69, has made the journey, which coincides with a reunion here of his platoon which served at Nui Dat.
"When the war was on, I was a gung ho soldier who believed in everything I was doing," Ted said.
"Today, I know it was all a waste of time because nobody won a war. The country finished up falling to the communists and that's what they were trying to stop.
"Also, the war has affected my health in lots of ways ? internal problems, depression and loss of hearing."
Jim Thomson, 67, also from Brisbane, served in Ted's platoon.
"Vietnam Veterans' Day is a time to renew old friendships and pat each other on the back and say how lucky we were to come through it," Jim said.
"At times, it can bring tears to your eyes."