Ray Pearson's memories of his time during the Vietnam War are clear and vivid.
He remembers his mates, his return home and helping the Vietnamese people with their medical issues.
His views about Australia's involvement in the war have changed - compared to when he was a "gung-ho" member of the Australian Army's Training Team - more on that below.
Mr Pearson, like many other veterans, will pause on Friday August 18, which is Long Tan Day or Vietnam Veterans Day, to remember their mates and the conflict.
National and local commemorations will also be held this year to mark the 50th anniversary of when the then Governor-General Paul Hasluck announced the end of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War in 1973.
Mr Pearson has healed a lot over the years and once shunned such memorial events and RSL-Sub Branches.
Now Vietnam Veterans Day is important to him.
However, he will commemorate the occasion this year from afar.
This will be the first time since the end of the war he has not been in Australia to mark Vietnam Veterans Day.
He was asked to deliver the main talk at this year's Huskisson RSL Sub-branch's Vietnam Veterans Day event which he had to decline.
Mr Pearson, who received an OAM for service to veterans and their families as part of the Australia Day honours list in 2022, will be overseas with his wife Dee,
He intends to look for a service to attend or a way to mark the occasion.
The Australian Government will mark the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War with a national service at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra on August 18.
Services will be held in the Shoalhaven - go here for details.
More than 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam, over 3000 wounded and 523 gave their lives in the longest conflict Australians were involved in during the 20th Century.
Mr Pearson was one of those 60,000 and this is his story.
The Basin View resident was in Vietnam from 1970-71 and he was handpicked to serve with the training team because the army knew he would do a good job.
He was a medic corporal and other unit members included infantry and artillery soldiers.
The now 80-year-old was 26-years-of-age when he returned home from the war.
"I was one of the older ones," he said about how youthful many of the Australian troops were when they got sent to war.
He was a medic and was already in the army prior to the war.
"It [his role] involved looking after my guys and when we used to go out with the regional forces [and if anything nasty happened they would call me in," he said.
Gunshot wounds to pregnancies amongst the local population and a lot of cases in between were things he had to treat.
Mr Pearson and others would be "choppered out", dropped on the ground to an area where "there had been a bit of activity going on" and they would stay there until needed - mostly during the day.
"Nobody moved at night - apart from the bad guys," he said.
Governor-General Paul Hasluck announced the end of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War on January 11, 1973 and Mr Pearson left the army in 1976.
Mr Pearson said there may have been an official army announcement made in January 1973 that Australia had officially withdrawn from the Vietnam War, but he can't remember it.
He can remember when the Prime Minister of the time Gough Whitlam announced an end to National Service.
"Most of the NASHOS were quick to fold up their blankets and leave," Mr Pearson recalled about Mr Whitlam's National Service announcement and going into an army barracks shortly after the news.
The way the veterans' were treated on their return is still a prominent scar in Australia's military history.
Mr Pearson was told, when he came home, that Vietnam servicemen were "not real popular".
"I avoided any ex-service organisations for quite some time - I did not want to have anything to do with them," he said about his post-army life.
He also did not want anything to do with the belated welcome home parade he saw from a distance while living in Sydney that took place in the 1980s.
He moved to the Shoalhaven in 1998, got a job at the then Nowra Memorial Hospital as a wardsman and attended a local ex-servicemen gathering but decided it was not for him.
Moving to Huskisson proved to be a key part of him "coming back into the fold".
Mr Pearson bumped into the respected ex-servicemen Rod Simpson who suggested he should link with the Huskisson RSL Sub-branch which he did.
"I found them to be a nice social type of group and they all kept an eye on each other," he said.
Mr Pearson, at that point in his life, was a "bit of a loner and not mixing too well" with others but is pleased he linked with the Huskisson RSL Sub-Branch.
Mr Pearson went back to Vietnam with his wife Dee in 2018.
"It was her idea. I must be honest and say I was a little bit apprehensive but a lot of water had flowed under the bridge - so to speak," Mr Pearson said.
They landed in Ho Chi Minh city - formerly known as Saigon.
"Remarkably we found that a lot of the people still referred to it as Saigon," he said.
"The big thing I noticed was the communist flag flying everywhere."
They flew into the same airport that Mr Pearson did in the 1970s on a Qantas flight during the war.
"As we were taxiing down the runway there were still these barriers that were there in the war but back then they had American fighter planes in them. I noticed the barriers were still there but no fighter planes," he recalled
"Once we got out of the airport and into the country, well I don't know if they were fears, but all those feelings were gone.
"I thought how good is this and the people were lovely - absolutely lovely."
He said he had no regrets about going back.
"I heard people say 'I don't want to go back' and maybe they had a bad tour. However I came home with two arms and two legs," he said.
Their travels took them to places like the Mekong Delta and their local guides were young and helpful.
He did have one interesting experience.
Mr Pearson, at first did not tell the tour guides he fought in the war and when he did the response surprised him.
"There was one guide who spoke a bit about the conflict and I said to him 'I was over here in the 1970s with the army'. He said 'you were with the American army' and I said 'no the Australian army'," Mr Pearson said
"The guide said 'there were no Australians here' and I said 'there was'.
"To them [the local people] it was America's war."
Then we come to the question he knew would be asked.
Was it a mistake for Australia to enter the war, Ray?
"I was wondering if you were going to ask that," he said
Back in the early 1970s Mr Pearson said he was all "gung ho" and for the conflict, unlike his brother Bill who was against it.
This resulted in a rift between the brothers.
"However, now at the tender age of 80-years and I ask - should have we been there? No, I don't think we should have been there," he said.
He said the fear of communists sweeping up Australia in their wake pushed him and others to be for the war at the time.
Mr Pearson's post-war life went off the track - but that and his inspirational "getting back on track" is a story within itself - so watch this space.
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