Vietnam veterans keep the story alive for our young

By Riverine Herald

MOAMA Public School students asked the tough questions on Wednesday when Rob Edgell and Jim Dewar from the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia dropped in for a visit.

‘‘Have you ever dodged bullets?’’, ‘‘did enemy soldiers try to sneak up on you while you slept?’’ and ‘‘were you sad when your friends died?’’ were just some of the questions asked.

The two veterans, who were infantry soldiers in the war, shared their experiences with the children, delivering what they described as ‘‘a brief, sanitised version of what infantry soldiers do’’.

‘‘We also talked about our training. I did seven months training before I went to Vietnam. Jim did 12 months training because he’s not as bright as me so he needed a bit longer,’’ Rob said.

Hands constantly filled the air as students asked questions for more than an hour.

Mr Edgell said they aimed to give their talks an ‘‘anti-war’’ angle.

‘‘But it’s good for the students to know what their fathers or grandfathers or uncles have had to put up with and some of their experiences,’’ he said. ‘‘Because it gives them a bit of insight into how hard and difficult it is being in a combat situation — and they’re the next generation who will make decisions whether we go to war or not.’’

Mr Edgell said the most common question he heard, particularly from schoolchildren was also one of the toughest: ‘‘Have you killed anyone?’’

‘‘We try to be honest with our answers but also nicely sidestep that one,’’ he said.

‘‘We just say, ‘Oh, we actually shoot at people but we don’t know if we hit them. Which is actually an honest answer because you don’t know.