Hats off to the veterans of Long Tan

Bernie McCartney holds a photo of himself after recruit training, which he gave to his mother before leaving for Vietnam. 152272


OCEAN Grove Barwon Heads RSL will honour Vietnam veterans this Anzac Day to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Long Tan.
The Battle of Long Tan took place on 18 August, 1966, and was Australia’s most costly engagement in the Vietnam War.
RSL member Bernie McCartney is one of the Vietnam veterans who will be leading local marches.
“It’s a nice gesture,” he said.
“It’s acknowledgement now that there wasn’t a whole lot of gratitude for their service back in the day.”
Mr McCartney served as a radio operator in Vietnam from July 1969 to July 1970, after being selected for compulsory National Service.
“Most of my mates didn’t go in but that was only luck,” he said.
“I spent the best part of six months learning Morse code but I didn’t use it once in Vietnam.”
Mr McCartney served with 1 Field Squadron (engineers) and 5 and 7 Royal Australian Regiments (infantry), as well as “three months with the Yanks”.
“Once you were with them you were one of them,” he said.
The then 20-year-old was lucky to avoid any major fighting, as his role was limited mainly to fire support bases.
Within a month he’d acclimatised to the heat, humidity and the constant sound of choppers leaving the base.
“There was gunfire all the time – background music – but it wasn’t at us,” he said.
After serving Mr McCartney returned to his then hometown of Nyah, near Swan Hill.
He said he received a much warmer welcome returning to a country town than the now-infamous protests in the larger cities.
“I was pleased to be out but I never regretted it,” he said.
For Mr McCartney, Anzac Day is about “honouring those who have done their turn”.
“It’s hard to imagine what those early blokes did while they were away,” he said.