GALLERY: Vietnam War veterans reminisce on fallen mates
SIMPLE, moving and straight down the line.
Those were the impressions left on Tony Dusting after the Vietnam War veteran attended his first Gladstone-based Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony on Friday.
Mr Dusting moved to Gladstone in June last year and was one of up to 80 people at the Anzac Park remembrance service.
A self-confessed grey nomad for nine years prior to his arrival in Gladstone, Mr Dusting left yesterday's service with a positive impression and mixed emotions.
"It was very good, very simple and moving,” Mr Dusting said.
"It was straight down the line and that's what you want. You get time to reflect on your mates who died and to also remember other blokes.”
Having joined the Australian Army in 1964, Mr Dusting went to Vietnam as a sapper for his first tour of duty in 1968, aged 22.
He would later gain the rank of corporal.
Cpl Dusting served on tours in 1968, 1969, 1971 and 1972 at Nui Dat (twice), Saigon and Vũng Tàu (twice).
He was on board HMAS Sydney (III) on her last voyage coming home from Vũng Tàu.
The HMAS Sydney (III) did 25 voyages to Vietnam between 1965 and 1972, earning the ship the nickname 'Vung Tau Ferry'.
Given the unpopularity of the Vietnam War at the time, Mr Dusting recalls two contrasting homecomings during his time of service.
"After my first tour coming home we flew home on a Qantas flight and landed in Sydney at midnight,” he said.
"We went down to collect our pay and that was it - we were off on leave for four weeks. There was really no one there apart from your parents who knew you were coming.
"We had a better welcoming coming home on the (HMAS) Sydney.
"We came in through Sydney Heads and there was a whole heap of small boats out there and we were all standing on the deck and a good friend of mine who came home before us was out there in a little tinnie with a couple of bottles of beer so we threw a rope over and dragged them up on the deck.
"All the Officers were saying 'you can't do that', but Cpl Dusting and his mates replied with a swift 'get stuffed'.
Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War ended on December 2, 1972 and Mr Dusting was one of the last to sail home.
"We pulled out in 1972 and I went home on the last sailing of the HMAS Sydney, the Vũng Tàu Ferry,” he recalled.
"We were one of the last ones to leave the Vũng Tàu area after we'd done everything. We got shifted down from Nui Dat to Vũng Tàu to help with all the logistics of moving things back.”
Yesterday's Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony coincided with the 51st anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
On that day 108 Anzac soldiers fought a battle against over 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan.
The Anzacs prevailed after fighting in torrential rain for four hours.