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Good on yer digger

25 Apr 2005

Today I had to get my son a haircut to go back to school. We showered, had breakfast, I did my hair and makeup, ironed our clothes and hopped into the car and drove the ten minutes it takes to get to the shopping centre. Waiting at an intersection I saw an obviously homeless man in filthy trousers and a very badly fitting crumpled suit jacket. On his lapel were about five military badges with ribbons. He was weaving precariously across the road.

I wound down my window and said to him "Where did you get your badges?" He looked at me like I was an alien, for as you know, the priveleged and sane don't speak to the insane and destitute. He answered me in a defensive tone, a violent glint in his eye. "Vietnam".

On any other day I wouldn't have batted an eyelid at this man. On any other day I would have locked the car doors and looked the other way. But not this day. Because today is his day, and even though he is probably dead drunk in the street by now, or just plain dead, today is the day that we must acknowledge his contribution to our country, our culture and we also must acknowledge that he may have sacrificed his sanity for the lifestyle I enjoy today. He would have been conscripted of course, so it was not his choice to go to war. So today I said to the homeless destitute man

"Good on yer, digger".

Because today is ANZAC day.

And even though I believe war is stupid and pointless and countries go into war for the wrong reasons and politicians are corrupt and greedy - I am ashamed that we as a society cannot look after our ex-servicemen (and women) better, and offer them a better mental health service.

On TV we show the parade, the dawn service at Gallipoli, the children and grandchildren marching in the places of their dead relatives, but it was the homeless man that made my ANZAC experience this year. I hope he had a good one.


Few of the sins of the father are visited upon the son
Hearts have been hard, our hands have been clenched in a fist too long
Our sons will never be soldiers, our daughters will never need guns
These are the years in between
These are the years that were hard fought and won
Contracts torn at the edges, old signatures stained with tears
Seasons of war and peace, these should not be forgotten years

Still it aches like tetanus, it reeks of politics
How many dreams remain? This is a feeling too strong to contain

The hardest years, the darkest years, the roarin' years, the fallen years
These should not be forgotten years
The hardest years, the wildest years, the desperate and divided years
We will remember

Our shoreline was never invaded, our country was never in flames
This is the calm we breathe, this is a feeling too strong to contain
Still it aches like tetanus, it reeks of politics
Signatures stained with tears, who can remember
We've got to remember

Don't know what ANZAC DAY is? Learn if you like.

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