Barry Brewer joined the Australian Army in 1966 and just two years later found himself in the thick of the Vietnam War a week out from his twenty-first birthday.
The Vietnam War veteran served for a year with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, as a member of Bravo Company.
Barry recalls the prospect of war sparking a “fear of the unknown” within him.
At basecamp, stationed about 30 kilometres from the coastline, he says soldiers felt constantly under threat once they stepped foot outside perimeter wire protecting the base.
“Even though the basecamp itself was relatively safe from physical attack by manpower it was still vulnerable to artillery and mortar shells and it would get mortared a couple of times.”
After returning home from war Barry continued his career with the Army until retirement in 2001.
“Even though your postings were pretty much the same work, there were different people,” the 71-year-old says of his passion for the military.
“Different units have different ways of working all under an umbrella of guideline. Procedures are all the same, it’s just how they’re adopted.”
Post retirement, Barry landed a job with the VRC at Flemington and currently works in the horse stalls area using a system he devised to help the public identify runners.
As horses arrive on track, Strappers are handed an armband detailing the horse’s race and its number in that race, which strappers can wear or attach to the horse’s head collar.
“Rather than strappers being asked by the public what horse is that and all that sort of thing, especially if it’s playing up a bit, they [the public] can readily identify the horse by the number on the armband, race 6 number 7. So they can have a look in their racebook and say ‘Oh yeah that’s Bill Bloggs’ horse’.”
Barry relishes working at Flemington and says the job has afforded him rare opportunities, including witnessing champion mare Makybe Diva win three consecutive Melbourne Cups up close.
“I love the crew that I work with. We’re a good group. All the other people that work there [Flemington] are friendly and easy to get along with and we all have one aim – to have a good day whether you’re working or there as a guest.”
While Flemington holds an annual Anzac Day raceday and ceremony, Barry usually marches in the city as the Victorian custodian of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment Association.
“I would do it all again if I had to,” Barry says of serving his country.
“[I think of] what I did and why I did it. Why I did it to start with was I felt my country was under threat and I wanted to do something to protect it.”