SUP­PORT ON TRACK

They say we had it easy but we had a dif­fer­ent war. We were re­jected from so­ci­ety.

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - FRONT PAGE - Jil­lian Mc­Kee

More than 50 years on from the Viet­nam War, the train at St Marys RSL Club’s “South Creek” sta­tion has be­come a sup­port hub for ex-ser­vice­men and women from across Syd­ney who are still suf­fer­ing the ef­fects of the war. Vet­er­ans Ted Fish and Tony Fryer spoke too The Stan­dard d about the chal­lenges they faced on and off the bat­tle­fields.

We just thought they won’t send na­tional ser­vice­men Ted Fish

AT JUST 20 years old, Ersk­ine Park res­i­dent Ted Fish was con­scripted to the Aus­tralian Army and sent off to war.

Af­ter just months of train­ing, Mr Fish be­came part of the first Aus­tralian task force to be sent to Viet­nam in 1966.

Mr Fish told The Stan­dard he went into the war “com­pletely blind”.

“Be­ing in the first in­take for Viet­nam wasn’t even on my radar. We just thought they won’t send na­tional ser­vice­men,” he said.

“We went in blind. We had no idea what it would be like. We started from scratch and it woke us up pretty quickly.

“I re­mem­ber look­ing out of the plane on the way over and just think­ing, ‘Am I go­ing to be com­ing home alive in 12 months?’ ”

Tony Fryer, of Wer­ring­ton County, had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter be­ing con­scripted in 1971, just af­ter he fin­ished high school.

“I was at school when Viet­nam first started,” he said.

“I al­ways thought it won’t hap­pen to me, I won’t get called up.

“As soon as you opened the plane door, every­thing changed — you couldn’t imag­ine the smell and that was just the start of it. You were in an­other world.

“We were meant to go to a safe zone to ac­cli­ma­tise but nowhere was safe.”

Af­ter suf­fer­ing from post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der, both men agreed the war con­tin­ued when they re­turned home.

“They say we had it easy but we had a dif­fer­ent war,” Mr Fish said.

“One of the hard­est things was when we got back we got told PTSD didn’t ex­ist.

“We were re­jected from so­ci­ety.

“I was at a party and one of the other girls at the party found out I was a Viet­nam vet­eran and came and spat in my face.

“We had to sup­press every­thing — it was a very frus­trat­ing time.”

Mr Fish said they turned to each other for sup­port.

“Just be­ing among other vet­er­ans and be­ing there for each other was our med­i­ca­tion,” he said.

Mr Fish and Mr Fryer have helped to es­tab­lish a sup­port ser­vice and drop-in lounge at the St Marys RSL Club Sub-Branch.

The Viet­nam Vet­er­ans Out­post was es­tab­lished at the replica South Creek sta­tion at St Marys RSL in 1995.

“That’s what we have this train for; (it’s for) sup­port,” Mr Fish said.

“If some­one is hav­ing a re­ally low day, we are there for each other and know how to help.

“That’s why this train is so pow­er­ful. Ev­ery­one is among their own.”

Ted Fish and Tony Fryer and (inset) Mr Fryer in his ser­vice days. Pic­ture: Peter Kelly

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