For Vietnam War veteran Ralph settling back into life in Australia after the war was hard.
“We weren’t treated the best by the people and the government,” Ralph says.
“It took the government 15 years to give us a welcome home. We weren’t allowed in some of the Returned Serviceman’s League (RSL) clubs because they reckoned it wasn’t a proper war.
Ralph says the best part about Vietnam was getting on the plane and coming home – and not going back.
“I was in frontline transport. We were transporting troops ammunition up and down the road all the time.
“When we arrived from Darwin, we were driven to tents in the sandhills. People reckoned we had a soft job, but they weren’t over there to find out what was going on.”
Many men returning from the war faced physical and psychological challenges, including Ralph.
“Coming back, you’re not the same. I had a few issues to sort out which the psychiatrist did.”
Ralph lived near a hospital and used to dive under the table when the helicopters were landing patients. He still can’t stay out in the sun for more than 10 minutes, otherwise he breaks out in a rash.
“That’s from the Agent Orange the Americans dropped to strip the native vegetation. Some of it rubbed off on us.”
He still doesn’t watch war movies or get into debates about the Vietnam War.
There was one great positive when Ralph came back to Australia. He met his wife, Marie.
“Lucky for me, she was a nurse and she helped me through a lot of things.”
In late 2019 she passed away after a battle with cancer.
“We had 43 good years together which is the main thing.”
“When I lost Marie I had good people behind me – the veterans and the tenants around here.”
Ralph has been living in his Home in Place managed social housing unit in Cessnock for more than 13 years.
“I’m grateful that, you know, I’m still here and that Home in Place have given me a place to stay.”
Soldier On Support services that enable current and former Australian Defence Force personnel, and their families, to lead meaningful civilian lives.
Open Arms 1800 011 046 (24hr) Australian Government veterans and family counselling service founded by Vietnam Veterans for all veterans and families
Lifeline 13 11 14 24 hour crisis support.