Daylesford resident Frank Page is a Viet Nam veteran who served two years in the Australian Army as a National Serviceman. He was drafted into national service in 1967. After basic training, he trained in signals and was a Signalman in the Corps of Signals. He spent 12 months and 15 days in Viet Nam based at Vung Tau on the coast, south east of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).
When he was drafted, it was “a big shock” but he “decided to make the best of it”. He feels that his experience living away from home at boarding school prepared him better than some others for the experience but he credits close friendships he formed for sustaining him through his service. On his return, he found that Viet Nam veterans “weren’t exactly welcomed”. Although he returned to a career in shipping which he had commenced before being drafted, he took an opportunity to flee from Australia and worked in Hong Kong for 18 months, a move he feels was important in helping him “get over the Viet Nam experience more rapidly than other people who didn’t have that distraction and escape”. He knows of many individuals who suffered horribly on their return and continue to struggle but he feels that the problem “has finally been acknowledged more fulsomely than it was in the early days after Viet Nam… and the level of care and assistance is quite significant now”.
Even though recognition was a long time coming for Viet Nam veterans, Frank feels that ANZAC Day is an important day for veterans to reflect and remember: “To me it’s a very important day and it’s important for Viet Nam veterans because after the ‘Welcome Home’ parades that occurred in the mid-80s, there was relief among veterans that they were finally being recognised and that ANZAC Day was an opportunity to reinforce that recognition and heal the hurt they experienced after their initial return.”
This ANZAC Day will be different for Frank and all of our veterans. For the first time in living memory, there will not be a dawn service in Daylesford. Instead, church bells around the town will ring at 6:00 am to honour those who have returned from Australian military service overseas and to remember those who have not.
Pat Harrison from Daylesford Community Radio, interviews Daylesford Viet Nam veteran, Frank Page.