…nothing all that untoward about it, it’s a life lived in uniform and like everything else in life – it has rules. You sleep, eat and carry out your toiletry needs like normal people, and every now and then you get yelled at. So far so good right? There’s really only one difference, and that is – the ‘clock’ never, EVER get’s switched off. It’s a 24/7 job and it get’s right inside your blood, it becomes a part of you, and unless you’ve had a really bad experience in it (like any other person and their job) you carry it around with you – forever.
It changes you too. I imagine anyone who has had (or currently has) a job that forces them to experience personal change or growth on the pointy end of life, knows exactly what I’m talking about here. It shifts you, you know – almost sideways – like you’re suddenly moving along another set of tracks; right beside the ones you were last on, but these ones are now running you off into a slightly different direction.
I’m not talking about a ‘Godly’ moment here – not one of those moments where you’ve suddenly experienced an Epiphany – just one of those moment when you’ve found yourself looking down and notice your feet taking you to a slightly different destination. You know – a ‘well that’s different’ slice of time; one where everything keeps moving around you – as it would have done anyway – but suddenly you’re just looking at it from someone else’s point of view – almost as if you’re seeing things through someone else’s eyes.
It doesn’t have to be a life in uniform that does this for you, but from my own experience I have found us ex-military bods to be an unusually well represented ingredient, when it comes to ‘unofficially’ delving into the contents of this statistical pie. There’s nothing at all scientific as to how I’ve come to this conclusion, it could simply be the world I move in, but I look around me – and nine times out of ten I can spot a fellow ‘service sucker’ a mile away. We tend to have very similar stories; our time in uniform changed us, and mostly – we’ve been led to believe – it’s for the better.
Why ramble about this subject at all? Well, it’s been nearly ten years since I took off the uniform (and YES, I did put on other clothes… people simply don’t need scaring THAT badly!) and re-entered the world of the ‘Civilian’. People still get a big surprise when they find out that I played ‘military games’ for a fair proportion of my life. I don’t know why, but there are still quite a few Aussies out there that find it curious that a Blackfella could have been in the Defence Forces in this country – and to this day – I have no idea why.
In fact I still run into people who are surprised to find out that I was allowed in at all – how bizarre! Granted these individuals are few, but I do trip over them every now and then (somewhat unfortunately) and it still surprises me! I’m just a bloke who went away and did a job, just like the other person who stood beside me, and the one beside him. The colour of my skin or whether I’m a man or woman – should it really make any difference at all?
We know that it shouldn’t, but there are people out there who clearly believe it does, and I have no idea why they’d believe such nonsense. Believe me, when it comes down to it in these types of jobs, the absolute LAST thing you could give a damn about isn’t the colour of the person’s skin next to you, nor might I add – whether this person is a man or woman. Can that person do his or her job and keep you alive? Then you step on up mate – we’ll get through this together!
ANZAC Day is a HUGE day for me… it’s the one day I can gather with people who have been where I’ve been, who don’t judge me and we can all get merry and tell ‘lies’ together. It’s a day to reflect, and we do this in a rather ‘unique’ way. It’s true; ANZAC Day is a national day to reflect on the sacrifices many made in times of war. Today, most of these veterans are gone – time has caught up with them, and they’ve gone off to join with their mates in ways we could never begin to imagine. ANZAC Day whilst being a national experience each year for millions of Australians is also an extremely personal one. Those vets of World Wars gone by may well be on their way out now – but there are many left who have been in other theatres of War (recognised or not) who feel the same as me. It’s an intensely personal day – I’ve lost many mates in uniform – in all sorts of scenarios – and ANZAC Day for me… is for them.
Sadly – this isn’t reflected in the way we’re often perceived in our wider society these days. The political, social and media frenzy juggles our military personnel like puppets in a storm. They’re used to score political points in parliament (more often than not in public) the way brats pull hair in the playground and fibbers tell lies. They’ve become a public punching bag (from personal experience – this is NOT a pretty scene!) where verbal abuse and rotten fruit bruise far deeper than any actual physical blows might.
On television, or in the newspaper, on the radio or even the internet our Defence Force get’s quite an ‘airing’, and this certainly doesn’t always spin off in a positive manner. At times this public flogging get’s to these fellas. Indeed – it still get’s to me. Yes, it’s true – these days – they did join up voluntarily for these jobs, but believe me NOTHING – nothing – prepares you for the potential horrors you can come face to face with, on the pointy end of this kind of life. Ask anyone you know who’s committed a service in this field – they might tell you it’s true – if indeed, they actually can.
I think we need to remember just one thing: these young men and women are in fact people too! Depending on the political agenda at the time, they get sent off to bizarre places most of which, none of these young people have ever seen, nor experienced before. Ordinary men and women – much like you and I (and don’t dismiss THAT thought too quickly now) – do amazing things in some of the most extreme circumstances you could possibly find. Whilst it’s true there’s an ugly side to this type of business (that of War), some of you would be surprised at the humanity these young people bring to these places, in time of extremely high stress. Putting on the uniform doesn’t always mean a person loses that sense of humanity; they just have to apply it as best they can, in circumstances that are most times – well out of their control.
On ANZAC Day remember that these young people are out there at risk, and experiencing things no person in their right mind should have to experience. Remember that it was someone else that sent them away to do the job they’re doing and, remember too that when they come home, they’ll have scars – deep emotional scars – that will need tending. That’s life on the pointy end for most people in this position – it simply get’s like that and, I can tell you one thing in all honesty; I wouldn’t have been able to do the job I had to do, without the help I had from my mates there with me. For all that the War in Iraq is (to me) a political ‘game’ of the most disgusting order, it involves these young people and it (the Iraq War) is not their fault! They personally shouldn’t be punished for it.
I hope they come home safe and sound, and that they’re received by Australians who’ll remember their humanity, and look to their wellbeing. Stay safe you fellas – be well!