IAN Dainer came close to being trapped in Saigon as the Vietnam War raged around him.
He and three RAAF air defence guards had been sent to Saigon in 1975, in the last days of the war, to protect the embassy and get the ambassador out.
"When they loaded up the aircraft, they realised they had no room for us, so we were left behind with a vague commitment that 'there's another aircraft on the way'," Mr Dainer said.
The four waited nervously for about half a day before they were picked up. Two days later, Saigon fell to the enemy.
"The war was raging all around us. We had a pistol each," Mr Dainer said.
"The North Vietnamese Army was camped outside the city. They were bombing around the airfield where we were."
Mr Dainer served another 30 years in the RAAF. He was first sent to Vietnam in 1970 at 18 years of age, after eight months of basic training.
"I did the normal 12-month tour of duty on combat operations," he said.
"In 1973, North Vietnam, the Communists and South Vietnam signed a peace treaty.
"However in 1975, the North Vietnamese Army attacked the South and we got sent back to Vietnam on a humanitarian mission - which turned into an evacuation mission for extracting the Australian Embassy staff.
"The evacuation was one of the worst experiences in my life.
"Many Vietnamese people who had actively worked for us for many years were left behind to their fate.
"In 1970, when I was 18, going to war was a bit of an adventure.
"But as you get older you just wonder, was all that really necessary - the lies that were told by politicians and millions of people dying."
Mr Dainer says it is in Australia's nature to go and fight other people's wars.
That's sometimes bad news for the men and women who are sent to war and find they are ostracised on their return.
"By 1969, the Australian population was well and truly turned off the Vietnam War," Mr Dainer said. "Returning soldiers used to arrive back in Australia at midnight, and were told to take off their military shirt and put on a civilian shirt so they wouldn't be identified."
The Willowbank resident is now heavily involved in veterans' welfare and health education.
"Men traditionally struggle with going to the doctor in the first place, especially veterans. They think they're bulletproof," he said. "Out of my cohort in Vietnam of 450 who served in the period 1965-1971, more than 100 are now dead.
"Cancers have taken a fair few. Suicide and death by their own hand accounts for about 20%."
On Vietnam Veterans Day on Saturday, Mr Dainer will mourn the terrible loss of life in the war among the 50,000 who served, including two good friends.
A Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony will be held on Saturday at the honour stone on the corner of Downs and Lowry Sts, North Ipswich, from 5pm.
Those wishing to place a wreath should phone Ray Watherston on 0402 224 985 or leave a message on 3812 9889.