After 51 years of silence, Kerry White has decided to tell his story of the Vietnam War.
He was a 20-year-old, working in the Commonwealth Bank, when National Service was introduced.
The “luck” of the draw of numbered marbles corresponding to birthdates decided who went in to National Service at the time.
His marble (his birthday) was one of those to come out, but initially he was deferred because he was studying maths part-time at night.
When he finally came to be conscripted into the Australian Army, Mr White said he felt fear and curiosity and carried the overbearing confidence of anyone his age “like most 20-year-olds today, thinking they’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof”.
When he arrived in Vietnam in October 1966 as a reinforcement to join the 5th Battalion, he was swept into the war and lost several mates in the ensuing months.
On his return to Australia, the Commonwealth Bank “in their bloody wisdom” placed him in the University of Queensland branch in the middle of anti-war protests.
In his new book Dominoes and Marbles, Mr White’s time in the Vietnam War was written in third person.
“It’s not the real me. That’s what I’m trying to convey,” the Cotton Tree resident and former journalist said. “Another person is looking at what I’m doing, like a TV camera. In the military, you change your character and personality.
“It was my former self looking at the military self.”
The memoir chronicles the 30 years from when he was born at the end of World War II to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, including his return to Australia and how he dealt with protests and negative headlines encountered upon his discharge. For many of his friends and family, the book was the first time they had heard about what he had faced in the war and the psychological challenges afterwards.
“They were surprised about the intensity,” he said.
The book is self-published with print copies available at Cotton Tree Newsagency and The Big Top Newsagency in Maroochydore, and can also be bought as an eBook on Amazon; or he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
“It was difficult to get it out there but I’m glad I did,” Mr White said.
With his fifth book under his belt, Mr White said he was “spent” but was already thinking of his next project: a book of short stories.
Originally published in the Sunshine Coast Daily