"You can take me out of Vietnam, but you can't take Vietnam out of me."
It may have been half a century ago, but the memories are still raw for Horsham veteran John Finn.
The boy from Braybrook lived a normal life: he played footy, liked his cricket, toiled at the markets, and enjoyed a drink with his mates.
He didn't know anything about Vietnam before his boots hit the ground.
Now his experiences linger over him.
"I've never wound down," he said.
"You can take me out of Vietnam but you can't take Vietnam out of me. Some Vietnam veterans come home and some are still over there. They are here but they are there."
Mr Finn was conscripted into the army at 20-years-old, joining the 7th Battalion bound for war onboard HMAS Sydney.
"Somebody said 'where are you going?', I said 'somewhere. I am off to Vietnam, it is somewhere in Asia'," he said.
"I knew nothing about Vietnam before going over there. Nothing at all. Not one solitary thing."
Mr Finn was born in Melbourne on October 2, 1945. He said his "old man did alright" considering he was born nine months and 14 days from New Year Eve.
He grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Braybrook, describing himself as a "lean, mean hungry guy from the Western suburbs of Melbourne" in a rough part of town.
Leaving high school at 15, he found work at a metropolitan meat market in North Melbourne, operating the switchboard and lumping meat.
It was hard work, and Mr Finn's football coach at the time, who was also his boss, would pick him up as early as 2 am to head off to work.
Mr Finn came of fighting age when the National Service Scheme, known as "the lottery of death", was introduced by the Menzies Government.
Under the scheme, young men were made to register with the Department of Labour and National Service, who would draw birthday ballots twice a year.
If a boy's birth date were drawn, he would be conscripted to the army and be expected to complete two years of full-time service.
"I didn't really worry about it. I thought if it happens, it happens," Mr Finn said.
"I had a father who fought in the first and second world war and thought well, I might as well carry on the family tradition.
"I never worried about fighting a war. At that stage, I was up for it. I was having a fight a night at the Braybrook hotel and I thought there were more chances of me getting killed in the pub than in Vietnam."
Mr Finn was called to service in 1966.
He remembered going down to City Road, South Melbourne, passing protesters, on his way to complete a medical examination.
"There were women there that didn't want their sons to go, and university students yelling 'don't go, don't go'," he said.
"I said, 'hey mate, I don't really want to go anywhere, just because I am in the army doesn't mean I am going to Vietnam'.
"My father fought in both world wars, why shouldn't I go?"
He completed 10 weeks of basic training at the Puckapunyal Army base, followed by a further 10 weeks of core training.
During basic training, recruits were given three choices of what core they would like to join. Mr Finn said in typical army fashion at the time the choice was made for him.
"I never put down infantry and that is what I got. They'll still tell you that we had a choice. I had a choice to do what I was told," he said.
NEXT WEEK: John Finn's story continues with part two
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