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Melissa Drummond

Kalgoorlie, Australia

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Vietnam Veterans marching in the Anzac Day parade, 25th of April, 2010 – Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

Australia finally gave our Vietnam Veterans an official welcome home in 1987.

I wasn’t even born at the height of the Vietnam War, and I don’t even know anyone who went. I have vague memories of my Dad narrowly missing out on being conscripted by one day (Australia had a system where birthdays were used to select men to send to War). For me to even try and pretend I know what these men went through, and the way they were treated on their return to Australia, would just seem hollow and pretentious, so I’ll leave it to the words of John Schumann (from Redgum).

Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal,
(It was a long march from cadets).

The Sixth Battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card…
We did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left.

And Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay;
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean;
And there’s me in my slouch hat, with my SLR and greens…
God help me, I was only nineteen.

From Vung Tau riding Chinooks to the dust at Nui Dat,
I’d been in and out of choppers now for months.
But we made our tents a home, VB and pin-ups on the lockers,
and an Asian orange sunset through the scrub.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And night time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.

A four week operation, when each step could mean your last one on two legs:
it was a war within yourself.
But you wouldn’t let your mates down ’til they had you dusted off,
so you closed your eyes and thought about something else.

Then someone yelled out "Contact"’, and the bloke behind me swore.
We hooked in there for hours, then a God almighty roar;
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon: -
God help me, he was going home in June.

I can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
on a thirty-six hour rec. leave in Vung Tau.
And I can still hear Frankie lying screaming in the jungle.
’Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row

And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears,
and stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel…
God help me, I was only nineteen.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me,
I was only nineteen.

I Was Only 19 – John Schumann

Artwork Comments

  • LouJay
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