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Vietnam War ‘Brothers-in-Arms’ march on Anzac Day

Bourke boys who went to Vietnam were out in force on Anzac Day - Victor Bartley is pictured here with fellow veterans David Judd and Tony Robinson. Inset: Former Bourke resident Sid Morris also served in Vietnam. Photos TWH

Tricia Duffield

When our returned service men and women marched down the main street of Bourke on Anzac Day, there were four ‘brothers-in-arms’ proudly leading the parade.

Sid Morris, David Judd, and Tony Robinson walked shoulder to shoulder with Victor Bartley at the head of the parade, all veterans of the Vietnam War.

Each carried not only their medals of service, but the scars and memories of their time on the battlefield, and the battles they have fought since.

Sid Morris, Victor Bartley, and David Judd grew up in Bourke, Tony at Wanaaring, and all left the Bourke Shire as young men, either as volunteers or conscripts to National Service in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

All of them share lifelong struggles with mental health, injuries that for decades were their private burdens and which for most of them, derailed their lives when they returned from the war.

The ‘brothers-in-arms’ are now elderly men who march with pride and honour, recognised for the sacrifices they made during the turbulent and misunderstood years of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam.

For them, Anzac Day is a touchstone, as it is for many Vietnam veterans, but in years past, it was a day that saw them unjustly shamed for their service.

Anzac Day marches were the scene of protests and conflict and for veterans already struggling with their mental health, including Sid, Tony and David, the lack of recognition made returning to normal life after military service even more difficult.

But as they marched down Oxley Street and took their place at the Cenotaph for the Anzac Day Service, they were greeted with respect, honour, and gratitude.

The reunion of the Bourke contingent, organised by Bourke RSL President Victor Bartley, was a chance for them to march together, and then remember the good – and bad – days of their common experiences over a few beers.

Sid Morris is now 77 years old and lives in Forbes, and the trip to Bourke was the first in many years.

“I was conscripted in 1966 and was with 7RAR,” he said.

“I was 20 when I was called up, I did my basic training at Kapooka, then Singleton, did some jungle training and then finished my training in Sydney before flying out for active service in Vietnam.

“I was based in Saigon and then saw service in various provinces in Vietnam for nine months before coming back to Sydney by boat, which took 17 days.

“When we arrived in Sydney, it was Anzac Day 1968 and we were supposed to attend, but there were so many protestors at the march we were not allowed off the boat.

“That was the only Anzac Day I have ever missed. My family had travelled down from Bourke to see me take part, but that didn’t happen. I saw them the next day, then I had to complete the final six weeks of my service in Sydney before I went back to Bourke.

“When I got out of the army, I re-joined the Rural Bank in Bourke where I had worked after leaving school, but I couldn’t stand it, and since then I have lived all over the place and been in different jobs.

“There were some bad times. I married when I returned to Bourke, got divorced, did all sorts of jobs - the Roo works at North Bourke, the abattoirs in Dubbo, but I couldn’t settle down,” Sid said.

He eventually remarried and has been with Diana for 32 years, but it has not been an easy road for Sid. Mental health issues forced him to retire early.

“I am still on medication, but I get by,” Sid said.

“Retirement can be very boring, so I help friends in Forbes and have been lucky to have family support. I get by.”

Tony Robinson also suffered from ‘geographical syndrome’ after returning from Vietnam and like Sid, found it hard to settle down after his Vietnam service. […]

Read more in the printed edition of The Western Herald.

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