Vietnam veteran: 'we never ever sleep through the night'
"ROGER, how much has the Vietnam War defined your life?”
There's a pause over the phone as Woodgate resident Roger Dwyer, 72, considers his question in an interview leading up to Vietnam Veterans Day.
"Completely,” he responds. That's his intended response, but to fill in the silence he eventually adds, "can I give you any other answer? That is the full square box. It reoccurs every night, no exceptions.
"We never ever sleep through the night.”
Mr Dwyer spent 15 months at Nui Dat, Vietnam, as a private working in the Australian Army taskforce's training corp from 1968-70.
He was 20-years-old and working in a golfing company in Brisbane when he was picked for the national draft, and did not understand at the time what it would mean for him.
"You didn't know what was ahead of you, of course, there was nothing in the newspapers,” he said.
"It was an obligation. See, at our age I think we probably had more ethics than the current younger people had and if the government said 'jump', then you jumped.
"They gave a valid reason why you should go and that was against the spread of communism.
"You went there to protect your family and your future families. You wanted to ensure Australia was in a safe place.”
Mr Dwyer then made the transformation from civilian to combat soldier within four months of training before being stationed overseas.
"You were trained to kill,” he said.
"And don't miss that, because that's the highlight of being a soldier.
"A footsoldier is trained to kill the opposition and that's psychological, and that's why Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs a lot.”
Another struggle that soldiers had was the constant alertness they needed to have in a war zone, particularly since this was not a war with traditional warfare. The enemy could be anywhere.
"You were on alert 24/7 and I mean that. It was the first war conducted without uniforms,” he said.
"And you just never knew, a 12-year-old kid could lay a landmine and kill you just as effectively as a 25-year-old soldier from North Vietnam.
"You had to adapt...it really was like survival of the fittest and the people who were alert.
"Nobody wanted to be the forward scout. He was the first one to stand on the landmine or the booby trap or whatever, but you learned to adapt and it was a job to do, and we did it on behalf of the Federal Government.”
But when Mr Dwyer returned from Vietnam he found, to his shock, the public animosity directed at Vietnam veterans.
"That was brought about by the Federal Government at the time, they turned the general public against us.
"We quickly realised we didn't talk about Vietnam.”
Mr Dwyer said a service will be held at Camp Gregory in Woodgate on Sunday, although the commemorations were for all veterans and not just those that served in Vietnam.
The service will be held at 168 Darville Rd and begins at 9am. There will be an all day barbecue afterwards with all welcome to attend.
A service will also be held by the Vietnam Veterans Association Bundaberg at the intersection of Pitt and May Sts.
Association vice-president Kevin Garnar said the service begins at 11am, but he urged attendees to arrive before 10.30am.
"You don't have to be a member to attend,” he said.