A soldier, his rifle, his recovery and his story
Worn, weary and rough - all words that can be used to describe the hands of a Vietnam War veteran.
Pukekohe’s Doug McNally is a soldier, and he survived the Vietnam War.
He grew up in Te Awamutu and joined the army in 1964 as he was fed up doing ‘ordinary’ work.
‘‘As a young fella, I had a sense of adventure and wanted to do something different because I was just working on farms until I joined the army.’’
He was first posted to an air supply unit in Devonport, Auckland, where he spent most of his time dropping supplies to troops on Great Barrier Island.
Two years later, in 1966, he moved to a transport unit in Papakura where he was responsible for troop carrying.
A few years later, he and some friends decided to join the Battalion Infantry in Christchurch, where they commenced combat training before being shipped off to Malaya to prepare for muggy weather in Vietnam.
It was 1969, 14 years into the Vietnam War, and McNally was on route to his 12-month tour of duty.
Explosions, flying bullets, screaming, and then silence - no matter what time of the day, adrenaline was always flowing, said McNally.
During one gun fight, McNally thought his life was over. They were ambushed by the enemy at night and he made a ‘‘hasty’’ crawl to get behind his webbing and equipment where he then opened fire with his self-loading rifle.
‘‘They say that when you are able to see the flashes coming from an enemy weapon, it’s ‘good night Irene’. Well I saw those flashes, so I proved that saying wrong.’’
What he saw after the ‘contact’ however, shook him - his webbing and ammo had been shot to pieces.
‘‘There was a hole where a bullet had gone through it. To think that during the contact I was directly behind the webbing ... not a nice feeling.’’
McNally, has been a member of RSA Franklin for 12 years, he joined the club to help him find peace and camaraderie once again.
He had suffered post traumatic stress disorder and nightmares, and he used to struggle talking to people about his experiences in Vietnam.
But he said the RSA and Anzac Day had help him find himself again.
Doug McNally stands proudly in front of the eternal flame at the Franklin RSA.