WE WOULD yell to anyone who could hear, “Twenty and a wakee!” and down to “One and a wakee!” Only a Vietnam Veteran would know the meaning of this—12 months of shit in a country we should never have been in—in the wakee we were on our way home from Hell.
One day I was lifted by chopper to an airstrip and then by Caribou to the busiest airport in the world at the time, Tan Son Nhut, Saigon, so I could go home for a couple of weeks. Probably the most terrifying time of my conscription was going home after one year in the Hell-hole called Vietnam—no such thing as a debrief; this was unheard of in those days—when my father took me to the local pub, the Harp Hotel in Wollongong, and I can remember him saying to me: “For Christ’s sake, son, don’t tell anyone you were in Vietnam. It’s better they don’t know. Just keep it to yourself.”
On Anzac Day, the World War Two diggers told me I could march with them but I should keep to the back. At the time pricks were tossing blood on Vietnam Veterans as they marched through Sydney streets.
It took Australia quite a few years to realise that we did in fact fight a real war, that we were fighting for our country, and eventually the Returned Soldiers League offered us an apology for turning their backs on us when we came home.
I am a proud of my association with the Sydney Chapter of Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club. As a club we back the law 100 percent, we do numerous rides for charity, and we proudly march in our colours on Anzac Day. We make sure that our present soldiers fighting in foreign countries are not treated as we were—we send them off and we welcome them home.
I recently marched with my Vietnam mates at Crookwell. Some of the blokes had long hair, tattoos and ponytails (a bit like we were as kids when we were conscripted). The bloke next to me had a limp and a couple were out of step. I have never been prouder in my life than I was that day marching with me mates who served. They’re my mates and we were there—we held our heads high and we were proud.
You would think that all these years later we could be proud to display our medals and proud to say we fought for Australia—think again!
Recently, my mates and I rode as a club to Sydney for a night out with our wives, a pie and a coke a Harry’s Café De Wheels. At 8.30 pm, just rounding the bend on Cowper’s Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo, we were wheeled in by the police to a compound. All 20 of us.
I said to the copper in charge, “Why are we being stopped?”
“Just get your bike over there with the others,” he replied.
About an hour later, to the same copper I asked, “Am I under arrest?”
“No,” he said.
“Then am I free to go?”
“No, I am directing you to stay for the purpose of the EPA; we are going to test your bike for noise.”
Two hours later we were still being detained as one by one each bike was tested. We were treated like shit by the coppers and the members of the EPA appeared to be embarrassed by the way we were spoken to by the coppers.
One of these arseholes from the New South Wales Highway Patrol, when approached by my wife to enquire why we were being held, said, “How dare you approach me; don’t you know who I am? I am going to target your husband’s bike even more now; I was going to let some of you go but you will all be targeted now.”
Infringements notices have since arrived for my mates and the sneaky pricks have put the same time on every notice. Law says you can’t test a bike if you’re detained for more than an hour; the time they put on the notice was within the hour. Once again, treating us like shit; they thought we would just pay the fines and not do anything about it. Twenty bikes all tested at the same time! Only a dumb arsed copper would expect that we would not do anything about this.
We are Vietnam Veterans. Sure, we have problems. But we don’t ask for much—just that we be treated with some respect. Is that too much to ask? You decide.