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