SURVIVED TWO TOURS: Vietnam War veteran Surfy Piper at home with his medals.
SURVIVED TWO TOURS: Vietnam War veteran Surfy Piper at home with his medals. John McCutcheon

Veteran reflects on life after serving in Vietnam

GORDON "Surfy" Piper was just a fresh-faced 17-year-old when he enlisted with the Australian Army in 1962.

He was among the first troops sent to the Vietnam War in 1965, where he served for a year before returning again for another year in 1969, serving as part of the American 173rd Airborne Brigade.

He said he would have had to go back for a third tour if it wasn't for the intervention of what he believed to be one of the country's most influential political minds.

"I thought, here we go again. I had fought the war twice already and gotten through it, here's a third go," he said.

"Anyway, it just so happened that the elections were on and Gough Whitlam got elected.

"And he said, 'Stop the war. We are getting off. And as of midnight national service will cease'.

"And I said 'Thank God for that!'"

Today, Mr Piper is one of the many veterans who have chosen to live out their retirement years in Nambour.

He lives with his wife Min and is an active member of the community.

"I am a member of the RSL sub-branch at Nambour. At one stage we had about 220 members but that covered the First World War right through to Afghanistan," he said.

"I think now we are probably down to 180.

"There are a lot of veterans in Nambour and I know quite a few of them. We have a good support base here."

Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated on August 18, with services and marches set to take place across the country this Saturday.

While Mr Piper was respectful of the date, he said he preferred to not attend services on the day.

"We have this national day that is embraced by everybody called Anzac Day," he said.

"So to me, Anzac Day is the day.

"I do respect the day (Vietnam Veterans Day) and what it's for, but I don't attend any of the services because we already have that one day of the year."