'I was a different person': Young boys are brothers in arms
GARY Young was carrying on a tradition when he went to fight in Vietnam, but it wasn't something he signed up for.
And when he came back, he admits "I was a different person".
He was one of the first Nashos - young men, aged 20, conscripted between 1965 and 1972 for two years of Australian National Service.
His father had fought in the First World War, his brother Reg had lied about his age to sign up for the Second World War.
Gary will march this Anzac Day as he "always has and always will" alongside the men with whom he shares experiences he cannot share with anyone else.
"I've got two families: I've got my wife and three boys, and my other family is the fellows I served with," he said.
His brother Reg was an engineer and served from 1941-46 with the 11th Division, including at Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea, remembered as the first land defeat for the Japanese.
Gary, also an engineer, served with the 17th Construction Squadron in Vietnam, including Nui Dat, from April 1966 to March 1967.
This year both brothers were honoured at Gosford RSL sub-branch by Quilts of Valour Australia for their "service, sacrifice and valour".
Gary said it was humbling, admitting "I got a little emotional".
He had known something was afoot when he was asked to ensure Reg, 96, attended the meeting, but had no idea what honour was being bestowed on his brother, or that he was next in line.
"I didn't expect it at all," he said.
"I said then, there are people sitting in this meeting who deserve this more than me."
But no one else agreed, particularly given the many years Gary has devoted to the RSL and supporting his fellow ex-servicemen and women and their families.
Gary said that when he was called up for National Service, no one had realised they would be sent to Vietnam until they read it in the newspaper.
"It took two years out of my life," he said simply.
But that's an underestimation, with Gary admitting to suffering ongoing PTSD.
He also still regrets the fact that the army wouldn't let him return home for his father's funeral.
Of the 251 men who were "the original 17" in Vietnam, Gary said up to 80 men have now died, a large number as a result of cancer; no one knows for sure how many of those deaths were associated with Agent Orange.
Originally not recognised as "real soldiers", records show the Nashos served just as bravely and well as any other soldier, "still had to put our life on the line, and a lot of Nashos got killed" and today they form a strong backbone of the RSL.
Gosford RSL Sub Branch will hold the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Gosford Cenotaph from 6am. The main march will step off at 10.30am and the main service is at the cenotaph at 11am.
There are 11 RSL sub-branches on the Central Coast. For full details of Anzac Day services, go to http://whatsoncentralcoast.com.au/anzac-day.html.
Did you know?
Exactly 100 years ago, troops at Villers-Bretonneux in France helped defend the town from the German spring offensive. Leading the British counter-attack, the Australian 13th and 15th Brigades surrounded the town and overcame the Germans on April 25, the third anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli. Gary's father received a Military Medal for his service there.