I'M STANDING beside the Cenotaph at Lismore's Memorial Baths.
At the going down of the sun last Saturday, a dozen of Lismore's Vietnam veterans marched along Molesworth Street. They were accompanied by the Lismore City Pipe Band and supporters from the Lismore RSL sub-branch. This annual march commemorates the Battle of Long Tan and remembers those who served in Vietnam and those who never returned.
Standing near me is Cathy Harris. Cathy didn't expect her soldier husband Cecil to be injured in Vietnam.
"He was there for 12 months, and I never thought he could be injured," she said, as we stand looking at the wreaths that have just been placed on the Cenotaph.
Cathy is a member of the Partners of Veterans Association of Australia, Far North Coast branch. Cecil Harris is the president of the Lismore RSL sub-branch.
As we stood there in the fading sunset, prayers were said, anthems were sung and the Last Post was played.
"When he was injured, I realised just how much danger he was in," Cathy said.
"But he stayed there and finished his service."
I ask Cathy how he was when he got home.
"Unless you live with them, you can have no idea what they go through," Cathy said quietly.
"My husband was flown out of Vietnam in the middle of the night, and you could say he was one of the lucky ones.
"He didn't have things thrown at him, or verbal abuse, when he got back to Australia. Up front, they're strong and brave, no problems. For years he didn't accept he had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But in the end he had to accept that he did," she said.
"Now, they've finally been accepted, but it still hurts when we hear things like 'they should never have been there'. From his point of view, he was just doing his job, serving his country."
Cathy turned to me and said: "I hope the ones who are overseas now, serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, get properly acknowledged."
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