IT WAS a proud day for Vietnam veteran Gary Roper when he first marched in an Anzac Day parade in 2000.
A far cry from the day in the 1970s when dressed in his white naval uniform for a parade in Sydney, he was doused with blood from a woman shouting "murderer".
Attitudes have changed and Vietnam Veterans Noosa Association treasurer Gary Roper is encouraging other vets to come out of the woodwork and find pride and friendship within the association. Noosa resident Mr Roper served with the Royal Australian Navy as a stoker on the HMAS Hobart between 1968-70.
Forty years later he considered himself not in bad shape, but he didn't realise how good until he met up with fellow servicemen in 2000.
"The people I was seeing were once big and strong," he said. "I was appalled to see their state of health - I thought, 'You are doing it very tough.'"
From that moment on, Mr Roper realised he had a role to play in the veteran community.
"So it falls on us - the ones with the wherewithal to help."
He said the veterans association offered a stepping stone from the group into the public.
"It can help to bring you out of your shell," he said.
He encourages vets to join the group and gain the camaraderie, benefits and treatment they deserve.
"We can help sort out entitlements," he said.
The association also has a lively social life, with barbecues, trips to Suncorp Stadium, golf days and shows.
"It's also a time when carers can get together and share."
Mr Roper said his wife Maria had gained a lot from making friendship with those sharing a similar background.
Vietnam Vets Assoc
The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (Noosa sub-branch) began in July 2004.
It has friendly monthly meetings generally every second Wednesday of the month at 5pm.