THEY gathered under threat of attack to honour those who had died in the Battle of Long Tan.
None present knew what would happen to the cross they erected.
It had been just three years since 109 diggers held off more than 2000 enemy soldiers in torrential rain and Australia was still at war in Vietnam.
But the soldiers of 6RAR/NZ (Anzac) battalion turned up anyway, Kangaroo Flat veteran Max Carlyon said.
"Obviously, our enemy would have heard all this noise as a whole battalion came in," he said.
"I'm sure they next day they would have gone to see what that had all been about."
It was a moment that would not be far from Mr Carlyon's mind when he speaks at a Kangaroo Flat commemoration service on Anzac Day.
In 1969, he and fellow soldiers had already spent a tense day and night searching for and securing for the exact spot the battle had raged.
"In three years the jungle changes," Mr Carlyon said.
The search had been done in silence, except for the moment a chopper thundered in, a concrete cross dangling below it.
"Here it was up in the air above me and it was swaying all over the place," Mr Carlyon said.
"I'm 'sposed to be the bloke looking out for any trouble. Unfortunately, I had my mind on this great big concrete thing above me. Thankfully it was safely grounded."
Then Mr Carlyon and other hushed soldiers settled in for a long night's wait.
At first light on 18 August others in the battalion carried the cross to the spot 11 platoon had fought in 1966. Within hours it had been erected and rifle companies were filtering in from surrounding rubber plantations.
A chaplain dedicated prayers to those who had fallen.
It was an important moment to be part of, Mr Carlyon said. He had been inspired to enlist by the bravery of those who had fought at Long Tan.
He had worked hard to get into D company, which had fought during the battle.
"Most of us needed to find out if we had the guts to do it," Mr Carlyon said of him and the other 19 and 20-year-olds he served with in 1969.
"I just can't believe that I clicked in all those little spots right up to me being there for the cross going in," he said.
The cross did not remain at the site. After the war's end it was removed and used as a memorial to Catholic priest Nguyen Van Chinh, before making its way to the Dong Nai Museum in Vietnam's Bien Hoa city, according to the Australian War Memorial's website.
In 1989 the Long Dat District People's Committee erected a replica cross at the site. The original was later given to the people of Australia and is now on permanent display in Canberra, according to the AWM.
It did not matter to Mr Carlyon whether the cross standing at the battlefield was original or not.
"The fact that it is there and respected by the Vietnamese, that's what matters," he said.
'Get your uniforms off and don't tell anyone where you've been'
Mr Carlyon's battalion had marched out of Townsville to crowds cheering and clapping in 1969.
A markedly different reception awaited them a year later when they arrived back home.
"In the aeroplane as we hovered over Sydney, our regimental sergeant major got up and said 'things have changed here, get your uniforms off and don't tell anyone where you've been'."
Anti-war activists greeted them as they landed. Mr Carlyon was splattered with eggs and tomatoes in Rockhampton and he was refused entry to the Townsville RSL.
Mr Carlyon had never considered himself a hero.
"The best I could say was that I was thorough," he said.
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But the reception soldiers got on returning home was "disgraceful" and had a major impact on his and others' mental health, Mr Carlyon said.
It was only in 1987 that he and those he served with got the recognition they deserved, with a huge welcome home march in Sydney.
"It was a very powerful thing to counter that massive negativity we wore," Mr Carlyon said.
By then, Vietnam veterans had vowed that in the future politicians would take the blame, Mr Carlyon said.
"To blame the soldiers has never, ever happened again and that's because tens of thousands of us have said in block if people ever do that we will come down like a tonne of bricks," he said.
Kangaroo Flat services take place at the Soldiers Memorial at 6.30am and St Monica's Church at 9.15am.
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