A Day To Embrace The Recognition They Deserve

18 August 2022
  • ANZACspirit
  • History & commemoration
  • Veteran stories

Like so many others, veteran Roger Collins stepped up to serve his country when the call came to deploy servicemen to Vietnam.

Yet, unlike veterans before them, Roger says there was no fanfare when they returned home. 

“There was nothing. Sometimes the recognition of what has transpired is more important than monetary compensation, for example,” he says.  

 Vietnam veteran Roger Collins RSL Currumbin Palm Beach Sub Branch

Currumbin Palm Beach RSL Sub Branch Secretary Mr Roger Collins

It wasn’t until several years later that Roger was ready to get involved with the Defence community. He’s now Secretary of Currumbin RSL Sub Branch and Deputy President of Gold Coast District RSL. 

Joe Gates, committee member at Currumbin Palm Beach RSL Sub Branch, went to Vietnam with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and had a similar experience upon coming home.  

“I was in Vietnam for a year as a radio operator in the signal platoon of support company 2 RAR,” he says.  

“I went back in 1971 with 4 RAR for another six months. 

“Coming back to Australia was a bit strange. Some of us came by ship on the HMAS Sydney and others by aircraft. Both times I touched down in Townsville late at night and there was barely anybody in the building.  

 Vietnam veteran Joe Gates RSL Currumbin Palm Beach Sub Branch

Currumbin Palm Beach RSL Sub Branch Committee Member Mr Joe Gates

“I met my family, and we jumped in a cab and went home. We had been advised to wear civilian clothing because there’d be talk of possible protestors being around.”  

“We thought that after all this time, after being in Vietnam for 12 or 13 years and the war’s finished and we were home, that there might be some recognition.”  


Roger, who joined the Navy when he was 16 years old, says talking about his time in Vietnam is only something he’s recently started to do. 

“I joined the Queensland Police Service after leaving the Navy and was active for 30 years. It has only been recently that my colleagues have discovered I served. We just didn’t talk about it. It’s sad but that’s what happened.”  

He started his Naval career with 12 months on HMAS Leeuwin in Fremantle, before joining HMAS Rushcutter for specialist diving training, and then being drafted to the HMAS Vampire (which is now at the Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, Sydney).  

“On board the HMAS Vampire we went to the Far East, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organisation and the Indonesian Confrontation was about to happen. We were a part of that, which ran concurrently with Australia’s involvement in Vietnam,” he says.  

“The Vampire was also part of the escort of HMAS Sydney and the first battalion into Vietnam. I think the longest I spent at sea was 28 days, continuous patrolling up and down to Meleka Straits.”  

Roger left the Navy in 1969 and has recently enjoyed reconnecting with mates from those days. 

“I didn’t get involved with the RSL until the 1990s, after going to a Dawn Service with a mate. And now one of my grandsons is 28 years old and in the Air Force, and another who is 18 years old and wants to join the Air Force. It makes me realise how young we were going off to battle at 16 or 17 years old.  

“We weren’t old enough to vote or legally go into a hotel, but we were able to go into war zones and operational ships. 

“The whole memory of my service is the mateship. You make very firm friends, and they remain with you for your whole life,” he shares.  


“Vietnam Veterans’ Day is healing. It is a way we can honour the 500 that made the ultimate sacrifice and the thousands that were wounded. It is a day that can outlast us,” Roger says.  

“Having a service in recognition is an important part even all these years later. It is very, very important for all of us who didn’t get any recognition in those days. 

“We’re hosting our second commemorative service this year, and I’d encourage any veteran who attends to embrace the ability to talk to people and reconnect.  

“I’m very proud to be in a position where I can offer support and have a part to play in offering support for veterans. I love whatever role I can play in being involved in helping veterans improve their way of life.”  


See More About Vietnam Veterans' Day


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