A friend once commented to me that being a soldier is just a job. Moreoever, they know the risks involved when they enlist, so why do we make such a fuss on ANZAC DAY?
Being an accountant is a job, a perfectly resonable job, but accountants do not risk their lives, they do not get shot at for simply turning up for work. Being a member of the Armed Services is NOT JUST A JOB. And here is the reason why:
A TRIBUTE FOR ANZAC DAY
Herald Sun, 23rd April, 2002.
I am an Australian soldier. I fought in the First World War. We called this war the Great War. We couldn’t believe there’d be another. Britain was at war. So we were too. That’s how it was, then, in Australia.
Thousands of us lads put down farm and other tools and joined up for the adventure, for a lark. But it was no lark. Gallipoli was our baptism into the bloodletting insanity of this war. We lost mates. Those lads of just 19 and 20 were buried where they fell on the sands of Damascus and in the fields of Villers-Bretonneux. But the insanity persisted. We lived misery in the trenches. When the insane call came to go over the top into No-man’s land, we went.
But don’t call me a hero. I am just an ordinary lad. I put on a uniform. I went to war. And I stuck by my mates. That’s all I did. I stuck by my mates.
Later, on the first ANZAC Day 4,000 of us marched through the Domain in Sydney. But the crowd did not treat us like conquering heroes. There were no cheers, just a few handclaps. They stood in silent awe of the spirit of the ANZACS.
I am an Australian soldier. I fought in the Second World War. I went to the Middle East. At Damascus and El Alamein we fought in the merciless glare of the desert sun. We were cut off at Tobruk, undermanned and under supplied, we dug in and held on. The Germans called us the ‘Rats of Tobruk’.
Then Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. And suddenly the war front was heading for Australia. Singapore fell. We became prisoners of war and saw some of our mates, young boys, tortured, beaten, starved and beheaded. We survived. Just.
But the fight for Australia had begun. Weary and diseased, we fought the Japs step by slippery step back along the treacherous paths of the Kokoda Trail in New Guinea. And we stopped them getting to Port Morseby. We stopped them getting a foothold in New Guinea and clear access to Australia. Then as the tides of war turned we fought them inch by bloody inch back through the Pacific island jungles to Japan.
But don’t call us heroes, we’re just ordinary blokes who put on a uniform. We fought and some of us died for Australia.
I am an Australia soldier. I fought in Vietnam. A conscript, I was plucked off the street at 18, put in a uniform and sent to the jungle to fight a cause that I didn’t understand in a war that had no front. This war was not like others. We couldn’t see the enemy. Mates died at Long Tan for what? Back home I was spat on in the street. I was angry and frustrated. But I understand now.
I may not always respect what the government does, but I respect their right to do it. That’s democracy. In 1966, Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of the war. It was all the way with LBJ.
Then Australians changed. We saw the war on TV each night. We saw the butchery in black and white. People began to protest in great numbers against the war. Eventually, the government bowed to the will of the people and brought us home. But it was the people who sent us in the first place. Even in Vietnam we represented the people of Australia. At home we represented their guilt.
I am an Australian soldier. I have represented Australia in peacekeeping forces in Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Somalia, Iraq, Rwanda, Bougainville and East Timor. I have fought in Afghanistan. I’ve seen countries where governments are changed by machete or Kalashnikov. And it makes me thankful to be Australian. We can change government without the loss of blood. For all its flaws, our democracy works.
I am an Australian soldier. It is the people of Australia I represent. Always. It is the people I serve.
Photo Source: Road to the Great War Blog