Hundreds of people gathered on Anzac Day morning in Tathra along the same road many young men from the region walked over a century ago to board the SS Merimbula, never to be seen by their family again.
The ship took boys and men from Tathra Wharf northwards, sending them to a war they knew little about.
The inspiration for the 1983 Redgum song I was Only 19, Frank Hunt, stood in front of the microphone and gave a moving 15 minute speech to the crowd, many with their heads bowed.
“I was wounding back in 1969 exactly five minutes after we got word that Neil Armstrong had stood on the moon,” he said.
Mr Hunt was severely wounded by an M16 “jumping jack” mine in Vietnam in 1969.
“I owe my life to the nurses and I want to pay tribute to all the nurses out there because they are the forgotten ones I believe, our angels,” he told the crowd.
“You only have to see death once, you only have to see and feel fear once, you only have to see injuries once but when you meet those beloved women called nurses then you know your life is safe.
“You know you are in good hands and there’s no doubting my life was saved because of those women.”
He spoke of fighting yet another battle after his time in the war was over – the fight for the recognition in the medical fraternity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“We finally got it recognised in around about 1985 and now thankfully we have other people who are under tremendous pressure in the police force, the ambulance service, nurses, teachers being recognised,” he said.
“This society is changing and mental health is such an important thing and I’m proud that we as Vietnam veterans changed the dynamics of what mental health is.”
Mick Attwill has been going to Tathra services for decades and still makes the trip despite relocating to Candelo in recent years.
“I remember when there was 30 people here and now there are hundreds,” he said.
His father was a photographer during the Vietnam War who rarely spoke to his children about the horrors he witnessed through his camera lense, like countless Australian men he chose to keep it to himself.
“In World War 1 it was called ‘shell shock’ then in World War 2 it was ‘battle fatigue’ and now we recognise it as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD,” he said.
The disorder was also the focus of fellow speech giver Rex Kermode who read a poem penned by former Tathra resident and prisoner of war in Burma during World War 2, Duncan Butler.
“Me mind goes back to ‘43, to slavery and ‘ate when man’s one chance to stay alive depended on ‘is mate,” the poem reads.
Some former military personnel prefer to watch from the sidelines and reflect on what the day means to them.
Standing on the periphery as the sun rose over the headland was Kalaru’s Scott Sapsford.
“I’ll be thinking of mates that are still in, still serving in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.
Mr Sapsford was aboard the first boat out of Darwin headed for the shores of East Timor as part of the United Nations backed International Force for East Timor in the late 1990s.
“I was feeling a bit of excitement at the time being the first over there,” he said.