|My Dad's medals my son now wears with pride every Anzac Day|
I remember as a young child travelling by train from Campbelltown to Sydney to watch the Anzac Day march. He was no less proud than the Aussies to be marching and I was no less proud than any of the other kids looking out for family members.
It was Dad who gave me a copy of “Man with the Medals “I include it in my blog in tribute to my father and all those that fought in the defence of their country.
The Man with the Medals - ANZAC DAY – by Rev. Roger Bush
You see him most days of the week but tomorrow he'll be a little more conspicuous.
Tomorrow he will be clothed in a blanket of anonymity and he will present a corporate image of all his mates so you'll have no trouble recognising him.
He'll be somewhere between 5'10" and 6'. He will be wearing a navy blue or a grey suit and the collar of his shirt will be a little rumpled and the tie, rather carelessly tied.
In the button hole of his left lapel, will be a sprig of rosemary and hung rather self-consciously across his left breast, and I might add, quite carelessly, will be a row of ribbons or maybe some dangling medals. And if as you look at them from left to right you know your colours, you will see that he joined up sometime in 1939 or early 1940. That he served either in Europe or the desert or maybe up in the jungles of New Guinea or on one of the many Pacific Islands where he left some of his mates.
He will pretend that he's actually slouching along and he will talk occasionally to the fellow in line next to him but there will be in his step that sense of pride, that sense of being part of a great yet sometimes terrifying adventure he shared with hi co-marchers not that many years ago, and the very togetherness will bring back memories.
And the memories about which he speaks and about which he laughs as he marches, will be about two-up games or maybe the brewing of jungle juices or some little pub in London or maybe a brothel in Cairo.
And he will either be a character about whom others will talk or he will be somebody who remembers the little vignettes of days gone by and brings them to the minds of others.
And there will be laughter and then there will be a quick recognition that the band is playing a little more loudly, that the town hall steps aren't far away and he will square his shoulders and stiffen his stride and erect his posture ready for the 'eyes right' and when he snaps his head to the saluting base, the years will momentarily fall away and he'll be young again.
This bloke passed the cenotaph just a little while ago, he took off his felt hat and he held it over his heart and for a moment his medals stopped jingling and in quietness he remembered Bluey and Charlie and Joe and the burial party just inside the wire at Tobruk or maybe the fuzzy-wuzzy angels carting him down the mountain side. He's a sentimental bloke this fellow with the medals and his eyes will be misty and he'll cough for he won't want to admit that his heart's been touched and that his memory has brought back the sting of tears.
As he swings round the next corner, he will be looking for some excuse to drop out. He doubts whether he can stand the strain of the Domain service.
He figures it might be just a bit boring. He doubts whether he can stand the strain of constituted prayers.
He's done his praying, he says, and he's had them answered. He's prayed like hell when there's been 190 on his tail or when he's been in a fox-hole in the desert or creeping through the green horror of a sniper filled jungle and Somebody had said, "Yes, my son, you can live." And there's an exuberance about the fact that he's alive and 55 and wearing a few medals and he wants to share this with old Blue or old Fred or maybe old Charlie who's come over for the march for the first time in maybe ten years.
So, there's a rendezvous and the bar is crowded and there's a hum of voices and somebody's still got two brightly polished pennies from a prior currency and they spin and for a moment he's care free and there's no such thing as housekeeping or tomorrow and he puts a dollar on the heads while Blue gets a few schooners and they begin to drink beer and tell lies.
But the lies are only a caricature of the truth and he knows deep in his works what his lying mate is trying to say so he remembers the caring and the sharing, the camaraderie and the mateship, and he shudders momentarily as he remembers being afraid, really afraid, so he has another beer. Not so much to give him courage but rather to grease the wheels of memory and to promote perhaps that feeling of wellbeing.
He may stagger a little when he comes out of the pub and he'll talk a little more loudly for he's been trying to drown out the lonely piper who's been playing everything from 'The Flowers of the Forest' to 'Bonny Dundee' in the confines of the bar and maybe, just maybe he'll bump you and he'll raise his head and smile and he'll say "sorry" and you'll go home and you'll think of the drunk who you saw on Anzac Day.
So just remember this man in the grey suit with the medals on his chest is not the boy he used to be.
His capacity is nowhere near what it was and this is probably the one day in the year when he counts his pennies and decides he can afford a couple of beers with his old mates and he sits in the train and rocks from side to side, gently in time with the train's swaying, half asleep, half dreaming, not quite sure whether he's going home on leave or whether it's all been some part of a dream of his youth and tomorrow he'll wake up with a bit of a head. He'll put on his other suit or maybe his overalls and he'll front up to work and the young fellows on the job will gig him and tease him with remarks like "and how's the old digger?" and he'll laugh and nod and come Friday he'll take his pay packet home to Mum and she'll give him back a few bucks for his tobacco and maybe the odd beer.
He might play a game of bowls or go to the football and on Sunday he'll go off to Church with Mum on his arm.
They'll say their prayers and he'll express his thanks to God for the life he's got back, for the kids he's reared and for the fact he's had a part in a great adventure that maybe did something for the world for just a little while.
So, when you see this middle aged man with the medals tomorrow, don't think he's marching as a witness to the glories of war. He's not. He's marching to remember and he's marching because he's proud and he's marching because it is only amidst that companionship that he can assuage some of the fears that sometimes wake him during the night, in a cold sweat and he will remember men who have died in the vain hope for a peace that just hasn't come. And on the morrow, he will no doubt, somewhere, sometime, ask himself what it was all about a11d he will be just as surprised as you if an answer's forthcoming.
He's 55 or so with a grey suit, a bit of rosemary and a few medals and for all his laughter, for all his boasting and for all his booze there is a constant prayer in his heart.
It probably runs something like this:
"God don't let what's happened to me and my mates, happen to my boy."
So, don't judge my mate with the medals too harshly. I'm sure God listens to that prayer and it's up to you and me to see that it doesn't happen with a terrifying regularity it's been happening over the last few generations.
So good luck mate, have a good day. I'll say my prayers with you.