Impact of Vietnam on family - Pepe & Lee Tamatea

Submitted by Editorial team on

Extract from an interview with Paul Diamond, 21 October 2007

Reproduced with permission of Pepe and Lee Tamatea

You've talked Pepe about the effect being in Vietnam has had on your health but we maybe should talk a little bit more about the effect it's had on your family as well.

I was giving my wife a hard time. We nearly divorced and divorced and divorced a long, long time ago. And I can't help it, it happened, the drink just caused it.

So stopping drinking made a difference?

Lee: Oh yes. A big difference.

Yeah not just to your health but...

No to the family too. Otherwise no, I'm a stupid idiot. I got grandkids now, lucky I don't...if I'm still drinking I might be smacking them.

That was a big, a big thing to do though.

Oh yes. I said to myself that's it, finish. Throw the bloody beer out.

Lee: Pepe had a bleed, a cerebral bleed.

Bleed in the head, they drilled that up.

Lee: That was the big thing that stopped it all.

Two holes up here. Another hole here. Here (laughing).

But from then on it's been easier?

Lee: Without the drink, yes, it's been a lot easier in the home. Like one minute he'd be so loving, but the next minute he was a bastard. And as I said, we'd be at a meal table, we'd know. He'd say 'oh I'll just go to the toilet' and he'll say 'who left the shampoo lid off?' And you'd know to get out because we'd know there'd be all hell break loose. And it was that bad at stages where I used to go to the pub and pull him out because I thought if I'm going to get a belting I'd better get it over and done with, because I never knew what he was going to come home like. But I don't have that now.


Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage


How to cite this page: ' Impact of Vietnam on family - Pepe & Lee Tamatea ', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-Sep-2013