FROM the serenity of a South Australian farm to the horrors of the Vietnam War frontline, Keith Boxshall’s life went from one extreme to another.
Mr Boxshall (68), of Nollamara, was 19 years old when he got the “call-up” in 1968 to report for duty in the Australian Army at the height of the Vietnam War.
“I had to report for duty in 1968. In 1969 I went to Vietnam with the 8th Battalion; in 1970 I came home,” he said.
“I was a bit hesitant about anything at the time; the call-up was alright because you were only going into the army, there was no mention of going overseas.”
The veteran said it was a major change of pace and a “big shock”.
“Sleeping in bamboo forests at night time and fireflies flying around, you thought it was somebody coming down the track; there’s a lot of scary things about it,” Mr Boxshall said.
“On February 28, one of the blokes trod on a mine and there was nine killed, 13 wounded.
“When a chopper came in to land to medivac us, there was another two wounded because another mine went off.
“I can’t remember much about it because I was one of the ones choppered out.
“Only five of us are left and there were 33 blokes in the platoon.”
After 364 days serving, Mr Boxshall was a changed man and isolated himself up north when he returned home.
“When I came back to Australia I (wanted) to get away from everyone; it’s just a strange world,” he said.
“I already had truck licences and that but I went up and put the road through to Gibb River.
“I didn’t want to see people; it was the greatest job in the world. There was only four of us on the whole team.”
Mr Boxshall moved back to Perth in the 1970s and started a family.
Now he surrounds himself with comrades, friends and family, travelling as often as he can and enjoying games of golf with other veterans.
His grown children Leah and Shane and two grandchildren support him on Anzac Day.
“Anzac Day to me means welfare; we can check on friends that we saw last year,” he said.