“SOME of the dreams are terrible, especially heading into this time of year.”
Vietnam War veteran and Thornlie resident Jim Campbell served two years of national service, including a six-month stint in Vietnam between 1971 and 1972.
The army runs in his family’s blood, as both his and his wife Bronwyn’s fathers served in World War II, while the couple’s grandfathers also served in World War I.
But today, he admits he is still suffering the after-effects of war.
Mr Campbell said the only injuries he suffered in Vietnam were “between the ears.”
“Post traumatic stress disorder is a very real thing.
“My two sisters both reckon Vietnam destroyed me, destroyed my ability as a father.
“I was fairly strict and sometimes not caring with my own children, although I’ve changed a lot when the grandchildren came along.
He said the lack of closure he received when he was discharged from the army contributed to his post-war struggles.
“I got a message one day to report to the front office, a nice young female corporal said ‘there’s your discharge Campbell, you’re a civilian, off you go’ and that was it.
“I started drifting, going from job to job.
“It was hard to settle back down, you had no de-briefing.”
While Mr Campbell said while he was proud to have been called up for national service, he did not wish it upon those who missed out.
“There’s so many people I’ve talked to who registered for national service and say their number didn’t come out but wish it had done.
“Some say ‘my number didn’t come out and I’m glad it didn’t’ and believe me, I’m glad their number didn’t come out too.”
Since the war, Mr Campbell has re-visited Vietnam on a few occasions and said he has a lot of respect for those he fought against.
“It’s always nice to see the Vietnamese veterans march on Anzac Day over here.
“There was a gentleman who was in the Viet Cong; I met him in a bar in Vung Tao on one of my trips back.
“He had a bullet – did it enter through his ear and come out of his neck, or did it enter through his neck and come out of his ear, I don’t know – but I shook his hand and had a photo taken with him.
“It buried a few ghosts but opened a few other cans of worms.”
Despite his battles following the war, he said Anzac Day was “the best day of the year.”
“You get together with people, some you know, a lot you don’t.
“But we’re all there for the same reason – to honour those who went before us.”
Veterans who are struggling or in need of support can call 1800 011 046 or visit www.vvcs.gov.au for free and confidential counselling for veterans and their families, delivered by the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS).
Veterans, their families and health care professionals can also visit at-ease.dva.gov.au for information about support and online self-help tools