As poignant as the memory Des Harrison has of chemicals raining down on him in Vietnam is the time he was turned away at the door of the Auckland RSA.
"They weren't going to let us in in 1968."
Des was sent to Vietnam when he was 19. He served in 1968 and 1969 in the 161 Battery Anzac Taskforce.
As Anzac Day drew close, Des and fellow Whangamata retiree Bruce Moore were guests of honour at a presentation by Year 7 and 8 students from Whangamata Area School.
The youngsters were piped on to the park by bagpipe player Lyle Forsythe and laid handmade poppies at Whangamata war memorial park, sharing insights they'd written after an enquiry on war and conflict.
Bruce was in the 1st Battalion New Zealand Infantry Regiment attached to the 17th Gurkha division, and at age 20 served in the Malayan Emergency (1948–60).
Both men were visibly moved when several students took it upon themselves to shake their hand afterwards.
"It feels very good," said Bruce.
"I never once [during wartime] got asked what we were doing over there. All we got asked was what goodies we were going to bring back from Singapore for them. It was demoralising."
Des said he was also surprised that youngsters wanted to shake his hand. The welling of tears as they did so told more.
"One of those kids asked me 'why did I go?'. It was like a rite of passage, my grandfather went to World War I, my father went to the Second World War and all he used to tell me about it was 'you're never tough enough, you could never do it'.
"It's not the total reason I joined the Army but it's a lot to do with it."
When Des landed at Whenuapai Airbase after Vietnam, the impact of war would magnify as he faced the lack of acknowledgment of his service.
"We were brought in in the middle of the night and told to take our uniforms off and tell nobody where we'd been. They gave us a really hard time. Somebody put in the paper that all Vietnam vets were druggies, so they squeezed all the toothpaste out of our toothpaste tubes, and emptied all our stuff out.
We were brought in in the middle of the night and told to take our uniforms off and tell nobody where we'd been. They gave us a really hard time.
"Some guys have never got over it, I must be tougher or have thicker skin. Now when they come back from Afghanistan they go straight into debriefs and counselling.
"We never had anything like that.
"It made me a pig-headed b******. It toughened you up. I felt right through my life 'there's not much anybody can do to me'.
He says the Whangamata RSA is doing a wonderful job of uniting veterans and young members, including those from the local school.
But he was hurt when in 1968 he did not even feel welcomed by the RSA.
Des is one of a number of Vietnam war veterans who are literally a dying breed.
A reunion is being held in Christchurch for Vietnamese war veterans in December and Des says the guest list is shrinking by the week.
"The thing I find at these events is you remember the guys. There's so many not here, they're gone, or going on a weekly basis. It's not old age. Guys in their 60s and 70s, there's an average four or five funerals a week."
He said the Vietnam War was like no other: "You never knew where our enemy was. The guy in the field during the day could be the one who killed you at night."
The use of chemicals like Agent Orange has left him with lifelong worry.
The Agent Orange, they sprayed everything with it - we were sprayed with it regularly and they told us it was to kill the mosquitoes. You would have this white salty water dripping off your trousers and clothes.
"It made the plants grow then die, they would fly along with these C123s or small Hercules, with 44-gallon drums of it in the air and it would just hit the ground and burst."
He returned to Vietnam in 1995 with other veterans and says it was "the biggest mistake I ever made".
"It's much better to travel there now but we shouldn't really have gone back. They didn't want to know us."
In December's NZVVA reunion there will be a vote on a motion to wind up the NZVVA, 50 years after the conflict.
Veterans are being reminded of the "critical" importance of considering the safeguards future generations will have should they suffer health problems that could be related to service in South Vietnam.
A research paper on Intergenerational Health by Eddie Nock said not understanding the issues of intergenerational health could leave future families of NZVVets unprotected if the vote goes against the NZVVA continuing as an independent association.
The NZVVA is sharing research on post-traumatic stress disorder, the mortality and cancer experience of Vietnam veterans, and how offspring are potentially affected by parental trauma.
In this particular study, the concept of intergenerational trauma acknowledges offspring grappling with their parents' post-traumatic state and makes the provocative claim that trauma effects are "passed" somehow from one generation to the next.
The NZVVA wants the 1561 veterans registered as of 2009 to register their spouses and offspring.
As those veterans who were registered in 2009 continue to die, Des is not convinced that the Government, which formally apologised to Vietnam veterans in 2008, has his back.
"Our powers that be don't really want to know. Veterans Affairs tries to support veterans but the funding comes from the Army and ACC.
"Before we were a little bit privileged and got a bit of an advance, whereas now you're just going into the hospital system to wait your turn. "
Des served as president of the New Zealand Vietnam Veterans Association for 10 years and was involved for 30 years. Yet he would join an Anzac Day parade and not talk about his active service to others.
"I didn't want the hassle of it," he says.
"Until Oliver Stone's movie came out, Platoon, that was a movie that all of a sudden got people talking about Vietnam."
The Auckland Star newspaper escorted Des and fellow Vietnam Veteran Alan Cameron, who now lives in Waihi, to the first showing of Platoon.