Emotional reunion for Vietnam vets after 45 year seperation
IT WAS a week of mixed emotions for a remarkable group of Vietnam veterans when they were reunited for the first time in 45 years.
The 17 men, along with their partners, travelled to Theodore from as far as northwest Western Australia, Melbourne and southern NSW to re-forge the bonds of mateship and camaraderie they developed as young men caught up in the war.
They were part of the last unit to serve in Vietnam, the Australian Army Assistance Group, which was later renamed the Australian Embassy Guard Platoon when they were charged with protecting the embassy in Saigon at the close of the war.
Noel Pope, veteran, organiser and Theodore RSL sub-branch vice-president, said it was a moving and healing week for his former unit.
"I think there's a strong connection in that area, in the commonality of what we went through together as 18, 19, 20-year-olds,” he said.
"So there was that strong connection of going through things together, coming home and then being separated and going our own way and actually doing a lot of stuff by ourselves.
"This (week) was doing things together, and there were group therapy sessions going on, and I think it's a whole lot different than having one-on-one with counsellors or psychiatrists, this was a whole lot different.”
The brothers-in-arms spent a week in and around Theodore, attending Anzac services, meeting locals and catching up, before leaving on a high.
"Some of these guys have never laughed so much in one week, ever,” Mr Pope said.
"One of the boys ... sent me a text and said, 'Why did we wait 45 years to have something so good when it was here all the time.'
"It's pretty touching.”
Mr Pope was certain a big part of the reunion's success came down to support from the community, the businesses that sponsored it and the Theodore RSL sub-branch.
"The community really embraced the veterans - that was probably something that I kind of saw that really stuck out,” he said.
"Some of our veterans, when they did come home and got out (of the military), really did it tough in terms of fitting in in a number of places.
"A lot of these guys didn't really belong to a particular club - a lot didn't feel like they belonged anywhere.
"And they are already saying if we are going to have another (reunion) it has to be in Theodore.”