Nashos in Vietnam first 50 years ago
WHILE 2015 marks the 100th anniversary since the Gallipoli landings, it is also 50 years since the first conscripted lads left Gympie on their way to Vietnam.
"I thought it shouldn't go unnoticed," said Gympie businessman Tom Grady, who was one of the first to be called up.
The compulsory National Service was reintroduced in 1964, a practice that hadn't been implemented since 1959, some time after the Korean War ended, but the first of the drafted didn't arrive at Kapooka, NSW, until July 1, 1965.
"There was only about seven people (from Gympie) at first and it worked on a lottery system, based on your date of birth," Mr Grady said. "We were called up to get medicals and due to start basic training on the first of July.
"The army was really strict on us Nashos. They weren't sure if we were going to cause trouble or not."
He went on to volunteer for a further six months.
"During basic training, I remember how cold it was. It was freezing. We'd be up until midnight the night before then up at 5am the next day.
"I remember blokes running through the dark in the freezing cold just to make roll call.
"They'd be falling over themselves. There would be lines during the day at the RP (Medical Centre) with guys with broken arms and legs and colds and coughs. The weather was playing up with them."
During the next eight years, more than 200 Gympie residents were drafted to the Vietnam conflict before conscription was abolished in 1973.
Of those first seven two did not make it home.
But among the sadness associated with war, a good news story came as a direct result of Mr Grady's conscription.
"Tom and I had been to dances together and the like, but I found out he'd been drafted through a mutual friend.
"I was heartbroken that the man I loved was gone," his wife Lynn said.
"I sent him a card just to wish him well. He responded by saying, 'If you choose to write, your letters would be appreciated'," she said.
After a stack of letters, Lynn and Tom were married three years after he returned and have been happy ever since.
"I often wonder how different our lives would be if I hadn't sent that card," she said.