Few events have been as integral to the history of America as the Vietnam War. Beginning in 1955 and lasting a whopping 20 years, it was America's attempt to stop Soviet and communist expansion into Asia as a whole. The main battlegrounds formed in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between soldiers from countries like America, South Korea, Australia and Southern Vietnam against the Northern Viet Cong, who were backed by the Soviet Union and countries like China.
The grinding, brutal warfare of the conflict took its toll on everybody involved, with the horrors of things like guerrilla warfare, napalm spraying, the mass murder of civilians, and other atrocities contributing immensely to the ever-expanding condition that was once known as shell-shock, but soon came to be called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Worst of all, many of the soldiers drafted and sent over by the world's powers were met with a hostile welcome upon returning home, due to the war's immensely divided reception among the public. Many veterans were literally spat on for the role they played in the conflict, and drug abuse and suicide rates among Vietnam vets skyrocketed.
Fortunately, some veterans were able to join clubs and organizations where they could share their experiences, and one in particular has the unlikeliest of stories: it's formed by both former Australian soldiers and former Viet Cong soldiers.
Both Rod Harlor and Vo Xuan Thu were recruited into their nations's respective militaries at the age of 19, meaning they spent a significant amount of their young adulthood fighting a war between their nations that they personally had no stake in.
Both were ground troops fighting through thick jungle, with Thu stating that "Sometimes when we reached our camp we only had 60-70 per cent of our men. During the war, we were ready to die for one another … I have never forgotten my comrades who fell."
Rod meanwhile was a mortarman, and has memories of trekking through the jungles full of traps laid by the Viet Cong.
"There'd be punji sticks covered with feces and things like that," he says. "They'd have these bamboo things [with prongs] that were attached to a tree and they'd swing out and hit you if you tripped a small wire."
The two, along with other veterans from both sides, eventually organized a meetup in a former Australian base in Vietnam. ABC explains that "the first official meetup between the two sides took place in August 2016, amid a storm of controversy over the cancelled Long Tan memorial service. Australian and Vietnamese vets came together in Vung Tau for a gala dinner to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan."
Plans for the club are in their final stages and the group is working to raise adequate funds to move it forward, ideally this year.