Remembrance Day.

I went down to Freo town on that Remembrance Day with a poppy in my shirt

I pinned on a few medals casual but looking  smart enough

Up  to  Monument Hill, I went as the day was warming up

It’s the least I can do for the blokes  who didn’t get to come back

To give  respect and  two-minute silence  for  comrades known and not

For they were  ordinary Diggers who went off and did their bit

 

I drove around the Monument the parking wasn’t easy

But  some spots under shady trees, taped off, came into view

On entry, I was stopped  by a clipboard with a frown, not a smile for me

“Are you a dignitary”? “Will you be on my list”? “This area is only for dignitaries”!

No Sir,  no please, no excuse me, just  “you can’t park  here  if you’re not upon my list”

No, I’m not a dignitary. I was  an ordinary Digger who went off and did his bit

 

Reversed out into the traffic no help or hand was given

To drive further from  the Monument parking up in the sun

Smartened up the hair, tucked the shirt  in, tried to look my best for the soldier still within

Up the hill, I strode to where the band was  playing  it was good to breathe the air, good to be alive

Then remembering why I’m here my thoughts went back to fifty years ago

To when Government sent I and my generation of  ordinary Diggers off to do our bit

 

I saw the big  marque  with seating in the shade, better than when we used to stand out on the parade

It would be good to sit and ponder why we were sent to do others bidding those many years ago

Of  many things that should be forgotten but  still gnawing away inside

Under the canvas awning I moved,  to sit myself there down

When a clipboard clutching authority locked eyes  before I could

On  this disabled Digger who  went off and did his bit

I could see what was coming  and I knew it wasn’t good

“This area is for Mayors and Politicians and Very Important People”

Would you be a VIP? Would you be on my list? I did not answer him least I made a fist

With a little bit of anger and chocking a  ‘fuck off’ I just got up and walked away as clipboard drifted off

Just as the psyches had told us  in Anger Management it’s better to go quietly than cause any shit

As I’m just a post-traumatic Digger who went off and did his bit.

I sat out in the heat, squinting at the sun,  atop  a  hard stone wall with no water to be found

I half listened to the words, heard many times before , of service, duty, sacrifice and honouring our dead

I heard speeches from  politicians who cut our pension down and prayers from padres to smooth our troubled brow

School children to with  poems, of freedom and liberty but was it all worth it, the cost to the dead and we

And when their words were done, odes and last post ore they all returned to seats within that shaded arbour

No shade no seats for me.  I was an ordinary Digger who went off and did his bit

When the nation needed men to come right up and join

We had Conscription lists, Enlistment lists, and Embarkation lists to fill

There were  Wounded lists and Medivacs lists and Body Bags lists too long, but

We never saw a Polly or VIP of note on any of  our lists when Australia was at war

Now on ANZAC and Remembrance days they’re on many lists a plenty

Pushing to the front, filling up the seats eager to be heard, eager to be seen

While the ordinary Digger  who went off and did his bit  is just an extra up the back

I mused  upon that stone wall as fine but hollow words went passing by

That Toni , Greg and the other  were seated there with  me

Upon those  sandbagged walls  a brew up  in our hands a roll up to our lips

In dusty greens with rifles there to grip,  we were all lads again in  far off Viet Nam

Heads full of  young men’s dreams , of what we’d do on getting home, girls and  cars and future things

A  mist comes to my eyes. Cos we were  ordinary Digger who went off to do our  bit.

I’d rather sit in the  morning sun  atop  this hard stone wall  than sit where VIPs tell me I don’t belong

I’d rather park up along the road than take some politicians safe and shaded  place

For the men who I kept company all those years ago  are  my  dignitaries my only  VIPs

What need have we for  politicians who turned their backs on us or suited  VIPs

When I have kept the company with such men in dusty greens  as these

For they  like me were just ordinary Diggers and now we’ve done our bit

Next year I won’t be going up to the Monument on hill

I’ll be under the shade in a fine hotel garden, slowly getting pissed.

Frank, Jock O’Neill

Two years Vietnam

Disabled Veterans of Australia Network

PO Box 698

Applecross

WA 6953

 

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2 comments

  • Tony Lowe November 11, 2021   Reply →

    Very true.

  • Ken.T. November 12, 2021   Reply →

    I gave it all away 40 years ago, going to these gatherings of V.I.P’s and their hollow speeches. I’d rather spend the time with those who understand what it is like to be conned and loss a good friend in times of war. I am proud of my family’s history and the fact that every senior male from my Great Grandfather to me, has fought for our country. I know that we would do it all again. Not for those who live in the Halls of Safety, but for those who we love and cherish at home. God Bless the Service Personnel, for they are the only ones who know and understand the price of Freedom.

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