Former Hervey Bay RSL Sub Branch President John Kelsey shared horrible experiences of returning home after the Vietnam War in 1969
Former Hervey Bay RSL Sub Branch President John Kelsey shared horrible experiences of returning home after the Vietnam War in 1969 Alistair Brightman

'We weren't welcome': Vietnam veteran shares horror story

WHEN he returned home from Vietnam in 1969, an army escort was required to get John Kelsey and other marchers safely through the year's Anzac Day parade in Adelaide.

It was a terrifying moment for the veteran and former Hervey Bay RSL president, who said he and other returned servicemen "feared for their safety" after their efforts in the conflict.

He served in Vietnam between 1968 and 1969, working in logistics and supply.

While Mr Kelsey wasn't directly involved with any conflicts, he saw the aftermath.

"Where we were, you'd see the helicopters fly in the wounded," he said.

"It made me feel very uncomfortable, seeing the extent of their injuries, they were just carried on a stretcher to the hospital.

"I just can't explain how I felt."

Even going back to the RSL after he returned, Mr Kelsey felt there was a distinct lack of respect other veterans were showing to the returned Vietnam soldiers.

"The old blokes gave us this look, the kind that said we weren't welcome here," Mr Kelsey said.

"Having the escort was wrong, we shouldn't have needed it."

While he was president of the Hervey Bay RSL, Mr Kelsey said he worked hard to change the culture and welcome young veterans.

During that time, he said he noticed a definite change in attitude towards veterans across the country.

"We're welcoming all these young blokes in, because they're the ones who have got to take over from us," he said.

"People now look back and ask 'Why did we do that to those young blokes then? We're going to make sure we don't do it again'.

"You walk around, and the public is proud of you, where previously they didn't want anything to do with you."



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