Vietnam veterans embraced

Anzac Day not always a warm, welcoming time for many

FRIDAY was an emotional day for Jeff Crust.

The Vietnam veteran, who is the secretary of the Elmore RSL, was very much at the heart of the community's commemorations; making a speech at the memorial service about the importance of honouring all soldiers.

But Mr Crust says Anzac Day wasn't always such a warm and welcoming time for him.

He says that in the years proceeding his return from Vietnam in 1969, he felt shunned by the Australian public.

"They were against the guys who came back," he says.

"The Australian general public didn't respect us."

Statistics reveal that as early as 1967 only 37 per cent of the population was in favour of the war.

Mr Crust says the general public's anger about the conflict extended to the soldiers who were following the government's directives.

Mr Crust says that Vietnam veterans often had abuse hurled at them, being called "baby killers".

“I - like most Vietnam vets - withdrew from society," he says.

I - like most Vietnam vets - withdrew from society. - Jeff Crust

"I had a big problem with alcohol and I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I didn’t want to mix socially and I didn’t want anyone to know that I served.”

John Yorke, who served in the RAAF Helicopter Gunship Crew in Vietnam, tells a similar story.

"The RSL really didn't want to know us," he says.

"There seemed to be a lot of agitated people who thought we were criminals or something.

"We couldn't understand it really."

But he says that in the 1980s public sentiment shifted and these days Vietnam vets can stand tall at Anzac Day commemorations.

Jeff Crust says Anzac Day makes him feel patriotic.

"It makes me proud to be an Australian," he says.

“It means thinking and sparing a lot of thought for mates who didn’t make it home or were badly wounded and how (Anzac Day) must be affecting their families.”

John Yorke says Friday's ceremony was terrific.

"It was good - you got a feeling of camaraderie," he says.

"You could feel relaxed about the whole situation."

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