Introducing Gavin. A Vietnam veteran from Australia and the first Vietnam veteran to participate in a VOC journey.
Gavin emigrated to Australia and was welcomed by being almost immediately scripted into the Australian military. He was deployed to Vietnam where he proudly served his country as a section leader, equivalent to a squad leader in the US military.
Gavin’s time in Vietnam was difficult at best. He spent six to eight weeks at a time patrolling the jungle, setting ambushes and searching for Vietcong. He would return for a week or so from the jungle, then be sent back out for another six to eight week stint. Gavin witnessed and participated in combat actions that are forever ingrained in his memories.
Upon returning home to Australia, Gavin was met with similar public sentiment as our veterans experienced in the US. He, along with the other soldiers returning home, were required to wear civilian clothing and fly on commercial airlines in the middle of the night in order to avoid being seen. Unfortunately, word of the soldiers’ return did not remain secret. He was met by protestors at the airport throwing things at them and jeering at them. This remains one of the difficult memories that he has worked to overcome throughout his life.
Gavin then began trying to process what he had been through in Vietnam and find his place back home. He recalls that it was nearly impossible to “fit in” as a soldier. Not only mentally and emotionally, but in appearance as well. The time was the early 1970s and “hippie” was the fashion. Soldiers stood out to all with military haircuts. There was no way to blend in back at home. And at a time when he felt scorned because he served his country, Gavin wanted to blend in.
To further complicate his situation, the social climate at that time did not recognize the difficulties a soldier had after service. There was no thought or discussion of counseling. He had no one to help him process what he had experienced in Vietnam.
Gavin struggled to adjust to regular life and work after the military. He floated around for awhile, a wanderer. However, Gavin was, and still is, a fighter with a positive perspective on life. Luckily for him, there were several members of the 7th Battalion who lived nearby. The men became a close knit group and supported one another in their transition. Today, more than 40 years later, they continue to periodically get together.
Gavin continues to have a positive perspective and is full of life. He strives to improve himself and leave a positive mark on those around him. Despite his experiences and struggles, he makes it a point to be upbeat. Gavin is a survivor. He will take this 500 mile trek to continue to process his experiences, a lifelong endeavor.