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5 May, 2021

Remembering the fallen

Kilcoy-based Vietnam War veteran John Robinson has a particular ritual on Anzac Day each year. He wears the medals of his grandparents on his right side, and his own medals from the Vietnam War on the left side.

“We promote Anzac Day because our grandfathers, fathers and uncles were involved in war,” he said.

“My grandparents were in World War I, and dad’s three brothers were in World War II.

“I joined the navy on February 9, 1969 when I was 17.”

Mr Robinson did what he described as the normal adult entry, basic training and recruit training, before being drafted to HMAS Vendetta.

“We used to provide gunfire support to American and Australia-New Zealand troops that were on different missions,” he said.

“You had to bring your own ammunition and spares, and we had to have our ship with spare supplies nearby.”

Mr Robinson recalled that this was challenging from a logistics perspective and that the crew went up and down the coast of Vietnam, doing seven deployments of around 30 days each.

In Mr Robinson’s words, the role was: “To provide naval gunfire support to troops and to intercept movement of resupply of arms, ammunition and personnel coming from north to south.”

Although Mr Robinson said there were no deaths on the ship that he was on, “you remember your mates who’ve passed on since.”

Of the 26 who joined together, 22 are still alive and they meet up every second year.

April 25, August 18 and November 11 were significant to Mr Robinson as those dates marked Anzac Day, Vietnam Veterans Day and Remembrance Day respectively.

Mr Robinson deemed that every war was different from another war, and that it was a case of remembering those who were killed in action or died of injuries, and those who have passed away due to service related conditions.

“(It’s time to) think of everyone, what they did, how young they were, and how they were treated when they got back home,” he said.

Mr Robinson considered that most people who fought in wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations suffer from a number of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Having been pensioned off in 2003, Mr Robinson has had a number of health conditions.

Mr Robinson said there were certain noises, aromas, dates and times that generated triggers or flashbacks associated with war.

Like a lot of people who have experienced war, Mr Robinson preferred not to divulge a lot of information about it, but he said that he sometimes caught up with colleagues and remember the past.

Mr Robinson considered that Vietnam veterans were more likely to talk with fellow Vietnam veterans about war, and that veterans from other wars would likewise be more open with their colleagues from the same war.

Mr Robinson also referred to support staff, as their contributions during wars should not be underestimated.

“We’re all Australian personnel. It doesn’t matter who you were or what you did, you signed on the dotted line and did the best you could,” he said.

Mr Robinson has been involved with the Kilcoy RSL sub branch since 2006, and has also done work for Veterans’ Affairs, as well as community work.

“We’re here for veterans and their families and to serve the community,” he said. 

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