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Community & Business

4 May, 2023

Vietnam Veteran makes it home for Anzac Day

Fifty years after the end of the Vietnam War, a soldier who hailed from Westbrook came back last week to attend his first Westbrook Anzac Day commemoration.

Christopher Hughes and Jeff Muller after the Westbrook Dawn Service on Anzac Day.

Len Muller is one of just two Vietnam Veterans whose names appear on the Honour Roll in the local hall.

An insight into the lives of these two men was given in an address by Christopher Hughes at the Westbrook Dawn Service.

Sadly, the other Vietnam Veteran, Jeff Rowbotham, passed away in May 2013.

Jeff had grown up at Westbrook and attended the local State School before attending Harristown State High.

When he was about 18, he moved west to the Charleville-Barcaldine area to work on a property. 

It was while he was there that he received his Vietnam conscription notice.

“In all those years we shared together Jeff never went to any Anzac Day Services,” Jeff’s wife, Fay, told Christopher Hughes.  

“He felt the general community didn’t respect him for his Vietnam Service and he distanced himself from being involved in any shape or form,” she said. 

“He was happy doing this. 

“We always respected his decision.”

Jeff never spoke of Vietnam. 

This is true even with his good mate Len Muller. 

“They only spoke of the good times,” Mr Hughes said. 

“I know this because also with us this morning, is Len Muller, Westbrook’s only living war veteran of those named among the many on our honour boards.”

“I wasn’t surprised when Len told me, despite their friendship over the years, that he and Jeff never spoke about Vietnam. 

“For those of us who have family who have seen combat, that is the way it is.”

Len grew up on the family farm on Muller Road, named after his father who was a Councillor for 30 years in the Umbiram/Cambooya district. 

Len also went to Westbrook State School, leaving when he was 14 to work on the land. 

Even though he was a couple of years younger, as they were basically neighbours, Len and Jeff were best mates.

Len was drafted in the birthday lottery and sent to Vietnam where he served for 10 months, first as a machine gunner then as a scout. 

One fateful day, a 10-seconds pause in battle to help his Company mates meant an enemy shell was fired before his. 

The resulting shrapnel wounded many, including Len. 

For him this was compounded with a bullet wound to his leg. 

Len spent three weeks in hospital in Nui Dat, where, as he put it, the other heroes were working - the doctors and nurses who had to deal the wounded and dying. 

Len was sent home to Brisbane for further recovery and shortly after received his Honourable Discharge on medical grounds.

And so, a new war began.

Part of that war was the abandonment, the returning soldiers felt, by the Australian Defence Force and the governments of the day. 

The battleground was paperwork and red tape; more and more of it falling on deafer ears as time has rolled on. 

But the real war as Len put it, was at home in civilian life. 

Here, in Toowoomba and Dalby, Len and the other returned soldiers couldn’t go into a pub without being called a murderer or being spat on. 

It happened every time in every pub, before he could finish one beer and all he could do is let them know, “You have no idea mate”.

On top of that there is Len’s inner war. 

Every night, since that day in Vietnam, Len goes to sleep thinking of those few seconds and the guilt it brings, the ‘what if?’. 

He was discharged, unable to return to Vietnam to finish the job, to help his mates again.

But the love and support of his wife Theresa and his children have made it bearable.

Our thanks to Len Muller and Christopher Muller for allowing us to reproduce part of Len’s story.

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