Brian Harper OAM was just another 19-year-old Launceston lad in 1969 when, out of the blue, his birth date was among those randomly chosen for conscription.
Like most Australians, he had no idea what was happening in Vietnam.
"We didn't have a clue what was going on," Mr Harper said.
"We just said that we have got to do what we've got to do, so let's go."
It was a confusing time - basic training in New South Wales and then Queensland in a failed attempt to acclimatise to the conditions before they were put on a plane to Saigon.
"They gave us a one-way ticket to Vietnam. You only got a one-way ticket, you didn't get a return," Mr Harper said.
When he touched down, he was greeted by hundreds of other soldiers keen to board the plane back to Australia at the end of their service. It was an indication of the hardship they had been through.
"They said come on, get your bags out of here, we want to get on to go home," he said.
Mr Harper was taken to Nui Dat in the 1ARU unit where they conducted patrols around a base where the Army would hold their men in reserve. They would walk five kilometres out, and then in a circle around the base doing reconnaissance work.
Fortunately, he never came under direct fire. But mortar and rocket fire were never far away.
Months later, Mr Harper took on a role as the batman - or personal assistant - for Major General Fraser near the Independence Palace in Saigon, a place he described as more dangerous than Nui Dat.
"The communists would come in boats, firing rockets trying to hit the palace," he said.
"Any ship that would come in the night, you'd worry."
It would later be the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon, but Mr Harper was long gone by that stage. To end his service, he travelled with Major General Fraser to visit bases around Vietnam, where his main task seemed to be protecting his superior's special-issue boots from bartering Americans.
After 16 months, his service was over.
Mr Harper boarded a plane in Saigon and, later that day was back in his home in Newnham.
It was a shock to the system.
"I was fairly lost for two or three weeks. You'd wake up in the morning and hear a car go past, a bit noisier, and you'd jump straight away," he said.
"If a plane goes over in the morning you'd duck, just used to that sort of thing.
"I was lost."
Finding - and providing - support for returned Vietnam veterans
Mortar and rocket fire had permanently damaged Mr Harper's hearing, and he was not alone in Launceston.
Many returned soldiers were suffering physical and psychological issues.
He sought out support from the RSL where many were sympathetic, but there was still an attitude from older veterans that Vietnam returned servicemen were less deserving due to the outcome of the war.
A group decided they needed a special branch for Vietnam War veterans, and the South East Asian Veterans' Association was formed, which later became the Vietnam Veterans' Association.
It was one of the first of its kind in Australia.
"We had 68 people at the first meeting, it was unbelievable," Mr Harper said.
Membership numbers peaked at more than 200 in Launceston and about 500 across Tasmania.
Numbers now sit about 110 for the local branch.
But there were countless more Vietnam War veterans living in Northern Tasmania, many who did not seek out the same kind of support.
Mr Harper said the war affected everybody differently.
"I've met a lot of guys that haven't been well and probably never got over it, but working within the VVA we worked to make sure our mates were OK," he said.
"We just did our best to make sure that we did what we needed."
The support from the wider community was also a great help, with many groups in Launceston celebrating the service of Vietnam War veterans, while others attended marches across Australia.
Even in 2019, schools in Launceston continue to put on special events and host Mr Harper for talks.
He said the number of Vietnam War veterans was naturally reducing as they approach their 70s and 80s, but veterans of more modern wars would continue to need support and understanding.
"We have tried our hardest to support the younger veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq, Timor and others as well," Mr Harper said.
They just needed to seek out the support themselves, he said.
Mr Harper has received a range of awards for his service to the community, including the Medal of the Order of Australia and the Meritorious Service Award from the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia.