By Luke Voogt
UPDATE: Due to Victoria’s latest lockdown, Geelong and District Vietnam Veterans Association have postponed badge-selling until restrictions ease.
Today marks 50 years since Portarlington veteran Reiny Nieuwenhof came home to the woman he married before leaving for Vietnam.
Mr Nieuwenhof married Jennifer Gaye just before flying to Vietnam after being drafted for national service.
He served six months in 131 Divisional Locating Battery using electronic listening posts and radar to track enemy soldiers from the Australian headquarters in Nui Dat.
“It’s certainly something that you never forget,” he said.
“I was one of the lucky ones. For those who have suffered much worse than I through PTSD, those flashbacks cause them severe trauma to this very day.”
Protesters confronted Mr Nieuwenhof and his comrades as they arrived at the airport on August 6, 1971, while returning from the most unpopular war in Australia’s history.
“It didn’t impact me – they were just making a statement,” he said.
Later, he and his wife reunited, after writing letters to each other every couple of days while he was in Vietnam.
“It was pretty special,” he said.
With Vietnam Veterans’ Day coming up on August 18, Mr Nieuwenhof and others who served plan to sell badges beginning next Monday on Malop Street, outside Westfield.
The day commemorates the Battle of Long Tan, Australia’s most costly battle in the Vietnam War.
The veterans will remain at their post from 10am to 4pm until August 17, dependent on Victoria’s COVID-19 situation.
The funds raised go toward supporting veterans struggling with financial and psychological hardship.
“That’s the whole point of the badge-selling,” Mr Nieuwenhof said.