I have just returned from a wonderful time with old mates at a reunion of 85 Transport Platoon, the Army unit in which I served in Vietnam.
The unit was formed in 1966 specifically for assignment to Vietnam and was the first new unit in the Australian Army formed specifically for combat duties since WW2. It operated in Vietnam from 1967 to 1972. In the early days it was stationed at our logistics base at Vung Tau and then moved to our Task Force base at Nui Dat. As Australia was winding down its involvement in the Vietnam conflict it relocated back to Vung Tau in late 1971 and then returned home in 1972. We were the only front line transport unit in Vietnam.
Men were assigned to the Platoon for a standard tour of duty of one year. As a soldier’s period of duty was over, a replacement took his place. Therefore there was a constant turnover of men. Over 600 men served in the unit over its total time in Vietnam. I remember that my replacement was a Private Gatherer. I have never met him but I am always grateful for his replacement as his arrival allowed me to come home.
Nowadays there is very little talk of the war at our reunions. Conversations are mostly about family, life and the variety of interests that we all have. Many of us reflected on the value of the national Welcome Home Parade that was held in Sydney in 1987 (seventeen years after I returned home. This was the turning point that brought many of us out and made it ‘OK’ to be a Vietnam Veteran. It was certainly the stimulus for the long history of biannual regions that we have been holding ever since.
I enjoyed a great time with old mates and look forward to seeing them at our next reunion in Albany, WA in 2017