Robert Cloke was 21 years old when he was sent to serve for Australia in the Vietnam War.
The now 73-year-old, who grew up in Maryborough, spent eight months in the warring country as a mortarman.
"You reflect sometimes, not very often," Mr Cloke said. "It was just one of those things you did. But we don't talk about it much."
More than 60,000 Australians served in the Vietnam War. The country first entered the conflict in August 1962. Australia followed the call of the United States to support South Vietnam in the early 1960s. The policy of the US was to stem the spread of communism in Asia.
By the time Australia formally left the war in January 1973, 521 of its servicemen had died and more than 3,000 others were wounded.
Mr Cloke spent more than eight months in Vietnam, supporting ground troops through the use of a mortar - a short, smooth-bore gun which fired shells at high angles. He said Vietnam was never Australia's war to fight.
"To be honest, I always thought it was a waste of time, waste of energy, waste of lives," Mr Cloke said. "As far as I was concerned, it was just a political action.
"It was hard for me because I could see no point in being there. At that time, it wasn't a nice place to be and we could see no sense in it."
While the war is not something Mr Cloke likes to reflect on, he does cherish the mates he made during his time in the national service.
Mr Cloke and his mates - who were all conscripted to the national service from central Victoria - reunited at the Bendigo RSL last week, exactly 50 years after they were discharged.
"We're trying to meet up regularly," Mr Cloke said. "We had a 40 year reunion and we met here two years ago. The plan is, because we're getting older and people are passing away, to do it more frequently."
Fellow national serviceman Malcolm Fletcher also served in Vietnam for 12 months as a 20-year-old.
The now 72-year-old had only been registered in the national service for less than a year when he travelled to serve in a war that was not his own.
"We went into recruit training at Puckapunyal, which is where this group first met," Mr Fletcher said. "And then we split up into different units - engineering, infantry, and other corps.
"I drew the short straw as far as getting into the engineers as a field engineer."
Mr Fletcher did a range of different training in Australia before he was sent to Vietnam.
Although the experience was challenging, Mr Fletcher was able to work to the task he had been given.
"In Vietnam itself, the heat overtook me and the seasonal changes - dry and wet," he said.
"There were no seasons like we have here in Victoria. But other than that, we had a task to perform and we were well trained at that stage.
"We had mine warfare, tunnel warfare, basic planned operation, the dam that we built over in Vietnam, and a lot of road maintenance work - that sort of thing.
"Then the field operations with the infantry where we were sent out as a mini team."
Read more: Vietnam veterans to mark war anniversary
Mr Fletcher said he never felt out of place in the national service.
"I enjoyed my training," he said. "I enjoyed the military training. "My father was a decorated infantryman and I think that came through his life and also mine as a child.
"It also developed into the training I got as a 19, 20 year old."
But Mr Fletcher, like Mr Cloke, said the war in Vietnam was an unnecessary one.
"We should never have been in Vietnam," he said "Never get involved in a civil war, regardless of what country it is.
"War is not to be had by any man. It's not a pretty event and you're only cannon fodder. We'll leave it at that."
After returning from the war, Mr Fletcher said he struggled to adapt back into daily life.
"I didn't have a lot of hang ups with the army," he said. "I stayed fairly low key when I returned home but I couldn't associate with the general public at that stage.
"It took me a long time to wind down out of army life. People didn't speak in the same lingo that we did in the army."
But the one thing he will always cherish about his time in the national service was the friends he made.
"That mateship that you develop when you're overseas is absolutely phenomenal," he said. "I have got mates all over Australia now.
"These fellas all went to different units but the fellas that were with you and relied on you and you relied on them, there's nothing like it. No friendship could be same as those fellas that served with you were like."
Don Curnow was also conscripted into the national service as a 20 year old.
He never left Australia, but instead worked in Puckapunyal in the signalling division to assist with communication.
He also worked for a year in the Royal Australian Electrical Mechanical Engineers, repairing vehicles and equipment that were sent back from Vietnam.
Mr Curnow helped organise the reunion and said it was important for the group to remember what they had gone through.
"They were all flung into an organisation which they didn't know anything about," Mr Curnow said.
"They all came from this area. They're all good, hard working guys who were torn away from their farming jobs. And we just like to catch up with each other."
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