Gary John McKay MC was born on 15 December 1947 in Perth, Western Australia.
Gary was conscripted into the Australian Army in 1968 through the National Service Scheme. He was a rifle platoon commander in 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR) when he deployed to South Vietnam.
Before being conscripted, Gary had very little knowledge of Vietnam. Although the realities of combat were quickly learned, for a long time Gary and his platoon believed they were almost bulletproof.
In September 1971, during one of Australia's final battles in Vietnam, at Núi Lé, Gary was shot and severely injured. Nearly cut off, his platoon was forced to withdraw when attacked heavily by the enemy. Some of his men were killed, a memory that haunted Gary. For his gallant actions during the battle, Gary was awarded the Military Cross.
After his return from Vietnam, Gary remained in the Army and served in operational and command roles. He served as a Commanding Officer of 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR) between 1988 and 1990. He also taught at the Royal Military Collage Duntroon and the Australian Command and Staff College.
In 30 years with the Army, Gary served in South Vietnam, Canada, USA, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Germany.
Gary has been back to Vietnam many times. He wrote a tour guide for veterans returning to Vietnam. He also travelled widely in the Pacific, leading battlefield tours in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
In 1996, Gary was the historical advisor to Mr Tim Fischer (then Deputy Prime Minister) and Mr Bruce Scott (Minister for Veterans' Affairs) on an Australian Government Remembrance Tour. He is an active member in the veteran community and serves on several committees for the Department of Veterans' Affairs.