I'm on my Way - Friday
The trip to Sydney was uneventful. I was on an aisle
seat so I didn't get to see much but I did strike up a conversation with the bloke next to me, John someone or another. He
wasn't a vet, yet he says that he'd worked closely with them since and was going to see mates from the past.
At Sydney I walked miles it felt just to get out for
a cigarette!!! Then I hit the Airport Pub!! Not the lounge or saloon but the bar. There was a lack of seats already so I asked
some bloke who seemed to be on his own, if he minded me sitting at his table. Well that started my whole weekend.
Paul was a vet and we talked and talked and he bought
me drinks and the next thing I knew there's many more faces, many more names and a couple more drinks and I was in!! It felt
good, and I was more relaxed now with a sense of "one of ..." Straight away I have been made to feel as if I'm with them,
part of them and definitely part of the whole weekend. Most of them didn't say much about Vietnam except when and where they
were there, what unit, and what the Memorial meant for them.
I felt very deflated when they had to leave to catch
their own flights - half hour difference so I finished my drink and let the feeling sink in. God bro I wish you were here
with me. I laughed with these people I have never met before and somehow I felt that they were all MY old friends that I was
here to meet.
On the plane again and now my apprehension was
really starting to hit me. Even though I have met some of the vets, the weekend is HERE, the event is HERE. My schooling is
just starting and my past is hitting me full in the face. As much as I was scared, I loved it all and
am soaking everything up that I can.
As I See out the First Night
Mulling over everything that's happened today as I see my last
coupla minutes out. What a whirlwind of a day, my head if full of all that I have seen and heard today. It's been fun, informative,
sad, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. There is so much to say and it's all a blur.
The apprehension that I felt is no longer with me yet I know
that tomorrow morning, actually in 4 hours time, I will face the more serious, more emotional part of the whole weekend.
When I first walked into the AATTV reunion hall for drinks,
I honestly didn't know where to put myself. I had missed the dedication ceremony at the War Memorial because of flight times
and I felt a little sad because of it. Of course the first thing I had to do was to ring home and let them know that I'd arrived
safely. That was in itself a little embarrassing as there was no public phones in sight and I hadn't met anyone that I'd talked
to by phone in this weekend's arrangements - so I had to be a pain for someone else. Oh Well!!
Afterwards I had to get a drink of course, I needed one to steady
the nerves a little but it gives you a destination when you're alone. As I'd walked in I was taken back because the room was
filled with "old men" - it hadn't occurred to me that these were career servicemen who'd seen more than just Vietnam and that
voices over the phone sound young.
There were so many people I didn't know where to put myself,
where to go or what I should be doing. I wished you all were with me.
Gradually though a few people came up to talk to me but so far
not the one's that I looking for, the one's that I had travelled so far to meet, in miles and years. They were Training Team
and I was just basking in the glow of it. It didn't take too long though to meet the one's who knew Dad.
I was able to catch up with Sharon F, I was hoping she would
be there. It was such a heart felt meeting that I felt totally at ease in an instant. Here is this stranger hugging the living
shit out of me and I couldn't see who it was. She had seen my name tag and reacted before introducing hersof. As soon as she
pulled away my heart went to my throat as I recognized her. People I knew!!! Seventeen
years, my God since we saw her last.
A little after 6 p.m. the lights went out and a voice rose above
all others. "For we shall remember them .... Lest We Forget.: My quiet comment to myself was "Never". They have a mement silence
at every meeting or get together like the RSLs at 6 o'clock to remember those that could not come home.
I believe then that people started to relax and mingle more
freely - the booze was definitely flowing more even amongst the women.
The speeches of thanks and welcome were short yet complete and
I don't feel that anyone was missed even though I don't know who was to be mentioned. Ian McQuire surprised me, he like all
that were there, were not as I pictured him. Maybe I had forgotten time and that people age. Maybe I had pictured younger
men instead of these middle age and older men that filled the room. Yet the surprise was his brief words to all, his
special thanks to the N.O.K. that came to represent the deceased member. "Inparticularly ..... and Jody..."
Very clearly he told all the members of the Team to feel free
to speak to this other lass and I about our fathers as that was the major reason for us being there. Sharon and others had
been to the Sydney Home Coming or had dealt with the Team before and Ian knew this wanting to make sure we got exactly what
we'd came to Canberra to find. I could actually feel my cheeks burning when Ian mentioned my name, not knowing where to put
my face. Not often you get me like that.
Thanks Ian though, as the people did come up. At one stage there,
it was like I was a celebrity with men lined up waiting to chat with "Snow's Daughter".
I spent a long time with Pete Wilkes and a friend of Mum's, Marie who she
knew in Adelaide. I felt really included with this bunch knowing that Dad would believe me safe. It felt so good to hear "Snow's
daughter" so often. I have never really been referred to this way and I was loving it, stood very proud and tall
in it. It's funny Allan, how close I felt Dad beside me, watching me, guiding me. Mum would have been secure in knowing that
I did Dad's memory proud. Right down to even my outfit.
I had a great time learning a few things and I hope to learn
more tomorrow night. Our Dad was definitely well liked and respected by the Team. And by all associated people involved like
Airborne and Mike Force. No one spoke ill of him at all and seemed to have a genuine liking for this man that was not very
tall but obviously large in stature.
Some talked of leisure time, others spoke of training. They
knew Dad!! These people were his friends, these people were willing to openly talk about him. A first in my life Bro. I hate
to say this but for the first time, people were talking to ME about him, not over my head to you or feeding me a pile of bull.
I was Snow's daughter and they treated me very well indeed. They accepted me as his daughter and it seemed as if there was
not enough that they could tell me or do for me in memory of this great man.
I heard stories about a woman overseas who was apparently
very friendly with all having a particular liking for Dad. When she asked Len Opie about him she was very distressed to know
that he had been killed. There was a story about an entertainer/folk singer, again she had always asked after Dad when she
hooked up with one or another of the Team members. This woman was killed there too and the story goes that the only way
that she was recognized was by her red shoes that the men had seen as her mark.
Ross Buchan, one of Dad's COs over there, seemed to fill the
room with his presence. He wasn't very tall or large of body but he seemed to have a presence of one that had seen alot and
knew exactly what he was to get out of life. He spent a long time chatting with me and made sure that I was looked after,
"Had I met so and so yet?" Ross told me how he had trained with Dad while they were learning to parachute. Ross had never
jumped from a plane and he felt that it was time that he did. Well, he never actually got around to doing it. He was on the
plane all ready and was seeing some of the other men off, preparing himself for the jump when he got word that Dad had been
killed. He didn't see the exercise through. Apparently, he still has not jumped from a plane to this day which he says is
because he couldn't do it on that day and now never will.
Ross felt Dad's death pretty hard he says, not just because
he was Dad's commander or that he thought highly of him but because he lost 5-6 of his best men that same week. I can't give
you all their names but he spoke of all of them to me how it was a freaky feeling, and that he'd never forget that week
as long as he lived.
As you know, Dad's call sign was "Cherry Top", now that didn't have anything to do with his hair colour (mentioned
often that my colour is the same as his when his beard grew which was often). The name came from the fact that the Training
Team wore green berets and Dad kept on insisting to wear his Burgundy/cherry coloured one and for that there was a lot of
There was a lot of general talk about the Training team's offical
opening and of their various "Anniversaries" as they call them. Every year they have a birthday bash in one state or another,
so we should get to hear of the next one and are very welcomed to come if we like.
The comradiere between these fellows was very strong
and it felt nice to be made so welcomed by them. All of them asked me to keep in touch and to make a point of catching up
with them at any gathering but especially Anzac Days. I told them that in Adelaide and any other times, I'd been refused to
march with the Team by the Marshalls. You should've heard the uproar. "That's a disgrace, it should'nt be allowed to be!!"
So bro, know that if you want to turn up anywhere for Anzac Day we have only to mention that we've been given permission
from the Team to be allowed to march in their place or with them in Dad's instead of at the rear with the well-wishers.
Saturday 3rd October - The Day that's Gonna Change
Where do I start? Today, nearly 24 hours worth has been the
best day of my whole life. A feeling of purpose, a sense of comradiere, that knowledge that "This Is It!" My
hands are so very sore from clapping so hard and long. I wanted to be part of every man, woman and child's strength, to let
them see that I too was there for them, as so many have been for me.
The day started in the still of the morning with the Dawn
Service. The lump in my chest was swelling badly and at times I felt sure that I would not be able to control my emotions.
But then again as I looked around, there were so many that were obviously unashamed to let the tears spill over that I kept
thinking "Why should I hide how I feel?"
There were so many people on the lawns of the War Memorial
that I was absolutely flabbergasted. I didn't realise, even though I'd been given figures, how many people there was
to be for this weekend.
Mavis (the lady billoted at the same place) was with
me, or rather she was there but I was so engrossed with everything going on that she may not have been there at
As was my flag! MY FLAG - given to us in 1987 by the RSL as
a tribute to our fallen one. My flag was my staff. It held me, comforted me, kept me warm, and was my aide, my strength. The
bond I feel with so many already that I've met and with what is going on all around me will be linked to this flag of ours
- forever and tis part of the reason I write this journal - so that the story shall go with the flag.
As I stood on the wet grass, the sun not yet risen and my
feet frozen numb - I felt strong in knowing that I had the flag with me. One old lady that I saw actually had hers (I later
found out she carried for 2 of her sons) wrapped around herself to help keep out the cold. I followed her example and it's
funny how quickly I did warm up. Except my feet of course - damn shoes and stockings.
The Dawn Service was very moving and I could see that everyone
else thought so too. When the bagpipes started up it was the most haunting sensation that I had ever felt. I had been to other
services, dawn or elsewise, and maybe it was only the fact that I was a hell-of-a-long way from home, alone, so many people
it was unbelievable and that I had waited for this weekend all my life. but it was special.
The pipes always hold an eerie sense of awe to me but this time
was different. The Last Post "felt" beautiful as the sound seemed to go through my whole body. It was totally unbelievable
and I had never felt anything like this before. It pused in my body, and damn if I didn't get the tingling chills as it bounced
off the walls of the memorials.
The feeling between everyone here is really strong. We all belong
here today, we were all meant to be here today and that seemed to show in the faces of all of us.
After the dawn service I went to the Vietnam Vets Memorial
to have a look. There's so many people about at such an early time in the morning yet there didn't seem to be many down
here. I guess they're all still having their coffees and trying to thaw out as well as meeting up with their old mates.
The Memorial is beautiful!!! Inside it was still pretty dark
and the shapes were hard to decipher at first but the feeling ..... how can I put it ..... it was etheric, sort of ghostly
without any fear.
Maybe I was just lucky to pick a time when there wasn't
many folk around me, I'm not sure but I felt as if there were no other earthly beings around me at all. Plenty from
the other side though. I just stood totally enthralled with the atmosphere that I was feeling around me and I was soaking
it all up.
The ring above me was holding alot of energy. A very
strong energy which not only myself but everyone else that I talked to said that they could feel. Not everyone knew
what it was but they knew that they could feel "something!"
It was funny how my mood changed as soon as I set foot in
the place. It's not big as in floor space but pretty tall. I had lightened up after the Dawn Service yet as soon
as I got to the Memorial I felt sombre, less excited with my heart was pounding away. Reality check of why and how I
came about to be standing there I guess.
I'm not sure what to say about a feeling, a rush of feelings,
to explain what the Memorial does to peole. I was sad that I'd lost my Dad, that all these men and women had to die.
I was angry that it had taken so long before people would wake up to themselves, especially the Australians who believe in
giving a man a fair go. I was happy that the weekend was here and that I had the flag and today was going to be the
day we marched. I was elated, uplifted to stand below the ring of the Memorial with the entombed names of those lost.
The Aura, the very essence of our men overseas was in this
place. And it was very strong, and I mean VERY strong. I remarked to one bloke later that it could be felt, that
there were 504 souls with an important message to tell and it was coming across loud and clear. He hadn't looked at
it that way but did agree, thinking it was as good an explanation as any he'd heard about the "eerie" sensation that EVERYONE
seemed to have felt.
As the sun came up and over, the light started to fill the
Memorial and it was moving across me, over me, filling me. It was cleansing
me, renewing me and I'd been guided to be here at this particular time just to have this happen. It was so beautiful
and haunting. It was my destiny. I can't put it all into the right words
but I guess it's just one of those things that "you've got to have been there!" Go and see the Memorial at the crack
of dawn (or anytime) as it gives off such a powerful emotion and it's definitely there for all of us. You WILL find
something there for yourself.
I walked out of there in a sort of daze only to find
that people were everywhere. I must've totally lost myself while I was looking at the walls that I seemed to have
forgotten that there were nearly 70,000 people starting to stream around me. I walked out into a day filled with events
and places, yet the people that I have noticed, met or talked to will burn in my mind for years to come.
The people in the street; those that came out of nowhere to
ask who's flag I was carrying and if I knew of so and so; the officials and organizers' Shaz and co; Ross Buchan; Ian Mc;
the team and so, so many more already, these people's faces are burnt in my memory.
The atmosphere now was completely charged, electric and alive
so much that you could see it literally crackling around the streets. The energy pulled us all together and I believe that
everyone felt as if they belonged, as if we were all ONE. The many times I walked alone - I wasn't.
I walked over to the War Memorial I grabbed a bunch of flowers
to put on the N.O.K. Memorial. It was exactly as I remembered.
Inside they have a new section for their Vietnam memorabilia
and it's not bad. I just spent the next half an hour having a quick look at the exhibitions and photos. They had
some videos etc that were put on especially for the weekend but I didn't stick around to watch them completely. My mind was
buzzing now and I really was starting to get a head rush from all this "Vietnam" and needed to refocus.
While at the Memorial, I had to wait in this real
long line at the toilet, people kept looking at me as I still had the flag with me. When my turn came quite all these
women asked if I wanted someone to look after it while I was 'occupied'. They accepted readily when I said no, and the
look was not of pity but of compassion. This look I saw heaps during the day and it was quite heartening to see as it gave
me hope that something was finally going to be done for the Vets. That finally family members too can stand tall.
Afterwards I had to go to the Honour Wall upstairs and see
again Dad's name. Do you remember? I stood for ages just looking at his name on the wall. This weekend I've
seen Dad's name so often on one list or another but this is different. This one came straight at me from my childhood.
I was 12 when we went to Canberra last and I was reliving the feeling that I had then as I stood there today. It was
queer in a way but then so much already has been just like that - my past was definitely meeting up with my present day.
I still had a little time up my sleeve before I had to go
to Reid Park where all were assembling for the march so I just sat on the steps in front of the War Memorial striking
up a cigarette. The N.O.K. Memorial was just in front of me and I was sitting reflecting on what I'd already been
through today. Believe it or not this was only around 8am. Next thing I heard this whirr sound and looked up to
see a press photographer taking a photo of me. The flag had blown over my knees and I'd let it stay, so I guess it must've
made a good shot with the Memorial so clearly in the background. I wouldn't mind seeing it.
By 8.30 many started to head towards the park and I decided
to go and have a look around to see who I could find. I ran into Shaz and family and stuck with them for the rest of the morning.
It was funny because another photographer asked to take shots of us two with the kids and the flags, also of the kids and
us with a couple of the motorcyclists. Afterward Rob took my bag and the kids moving to the Parade to go get their seats so
Shaz and I were on our own. I really enjoyed this time with her. We seem to get along well and I hope that we shall this time
stay in touch.
We roamed around and talked to HEAPS of people. Some from the
Team, some from other units that either one of us had already met, and plenty that we hadn't yet.
At the park they had a giant screen, and I mean giant, set us
for us to watch the proceedings. This was when I felt it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I was watching the entombing of
the scroll and I found it hard to keep the lump from my throat.
Then it was time to get ourselves collected. As we were the
first to go it was all pretty exciting for everyone because they were all wishing us the best and giving us their condolences
The march, oh boy again how do I put all this into the right
words. As I stood there at the starting point I truly believed that I could conquer anything. I was going to be alright and
not make a fool of myself, mastering all emotions. How wrong I was. It was the most moving and emotional thing that I had
done in my life (except my son's birth of course). I had Shaz beside me - I felt relaxed and jovial until that bugle sounded
the Last Post. Everyone went quiet, everything went quiet and when there is a crowd such as todays, a sudden stilling of the
tongues as people stopped and reflected and remembered, was most unnerving. This was it, this was what I and so many others,
were here for. This was what so many stopped to remember - the losses, the men, the ruined lives. This was what was in our
As we started to move off, I felt a thrill go through my whole
body. I guess everyone did, especially those that had not made it to the Sydney Home Coming. The feeling that hit me as we
turned the corner to start down Anzac Parade was definitely a spititual one which nearly took me by surprise. People were
lined up everywhere even before we turned the bend, clapping and seeing us off with cheers etc. But when that turn actually
came it was so over-whelming, it was unbelievable. There were literally hundreds, thousands of people lining this LONG road
that we were to march down. Everything seemed now to become so public, so exposed. The applause was deafening and lasted so
long. As we, the N.O.K.moved off I saw officials and other vets clapping too. They were clapping us along, giving us their
strength and yet we were here for them too. I guess that's what thd whole weekend meant for me and others - we were here for
ourselves yet there was so much that we had to give for everyone else.
The walk down Anzac Parade chocked the living hell out
of me. I could hardly look around me for fear that I was going to break that hold I had on my tears, my whole body was
burning so. Thank God I had the hind sight not to wear any mascara today. I honestly didn't expect the onslaught of emotions
that wanted to come out. I really wanted to cry, to let the tears flow (I really wanted to literally curl up in a ball
in the middle of the road and howl) but there were so many people, and the sun was so bright and the cameras and I didn't
know where to look that felt safe from the tears.
The applause did not lessen at all. The rows and rows of faces
did not cease. Some kept asking if I was okay, it must of looked as if I was going to break at any moment. It was
a long walk. Longer than I could possibly imagine and slow.
When the Hewies went over that was it. The lump in my chest
and my throat had been held there by sheer will power and when the choppers flew past the thump of the rotors was felt in
all of our bodies. It started at my feet and straight away I knew that I was going to lose my composure as it reached my stomach
and chest, I just could not hold back the tears. They spilled over so fast and it was in a way quite a relief to let the feeling
of being chocked, go. The bloke next to me, a vet with his mate's flag, put his arm over my shoulders and told me that it
was okay. The compassion of these people has been so beautiful anxd quick to be extended to anyone and everyone.
The "eyes-right" at the Memorial sobered me up heaps. I could
see both Anita and Paul Keating and before I could stop myself I was saying, "Well I wont be voting for them next year." They
stood there so stonily that it was as if they were there under sufferance. And we were at the beginning of the Parade. Everyone
laughed and we then enjoyed ourselves, waving and cheering to the crowd.
By the end of the march I wished that it went further regardless of the tears, etc. Shaz and I gave her husband
our flags and ran hard. Next of Kin had a general invitation to march with their KIA's unit and the AATTV were only 2 spots
behind us but we managed to get there and march about 50 metres with them. The difference in the emotion was so great compared
to marching with the N.O.K. They laughed with us, yelled out to people in the street, chatted, joked and generally included
us two. As it was we were only 2 of 4 to march with the Team and the N.O.K. contingent. Later that night so many
of the Team expressed how pleased they were that we made the effort to be with them, to support them too and how it made
their day that we marched in our father's places.
For the next hour and a half I stood alone, yet not, at the rails
applauding the rest of the troops through. I had quite a few people yell out to me, some even by name - men I had met
at Sydney Airport, the only time all weekend that I was to see them again but the thought of them brings a smile to my face.
God my hands were sore but I wasn't going to let up. I was here
for them too and I was not going to leave thinking that I'd not helped bring them all home.
Some of those men that I saw, amazing pride and strength. They
all walked so proudly, their heads held high and most of them in such a good, light mood. There was one older bloke that couldn't
make the march and he was taken away on the back of one of the Vietnam Veteran's Motorcycle club boy's bike. There were so
many that were disabled and needed a wheelchair or cane to help themselves through. They did this as proudly as the rest of
them if not more so
One bloke in particular I will never forget. He was thin and
his hair was unruly and he definitely looked like he was one of the many that I was to meet who'd come outa the woodwork for
this day. He had such a nervous tic that it shook his whole body and interferred with his very step but he kept going no matter
what. He showed to me what courage some of these men had taken to get here, to march, and for some just to plain be amongst
people again after so many years of living on the outer.
From where I was standing, looking over to the other side of
the road, I could see Ross Buchan and a few other team members. I'd already as I said spoken with the Team, including Wallaby
but for some reason I'd a hard time taking my eyes off this small group. For ages they stood there forever calling out to
so many men that they knew with such beautiful and genuine smiles on their faces. They seemed to know someone (or many) from
each and every unit that passed. To watch this brought home hard how much Dad would have achieved if only he'd lived.
Again I found myself quite close to tears, but I held onto my flag and took strength from all that was around me. You know, I swear that I saw Dad standing there with them. Ross right from the start
reminded me, gave me the impression that he was a similar kind of man as Dad and to watch this made me feel that if Dad was
alive, he wouldn've been there for sure amongst these men today.
The time was passing on and I knew that I had to start moving
up towards the War Memorial to meet up with my ride.
As I walked up this sea of people, I walked proud and tall.
As I said before, even though at times I went around on my own whether I had the flag with me or not, I had my badge on and
people recognized straight away that I was NOK - so I was NEVER alone.
I wasn't allowed to get far anyway as I ran into Marie at the
grand stand with her daughter. They were yelling out for me to join them and I'm glad I did. They're such lovely people, warm
and enveloping. The weekend hasn't just been filled with people talking about Dad, but telling me about Mum too. It was good.
When the South Vietnam delegate came down the road I moved toward
the barriers knowing that the bikes were going to be next.
On appearence the South Vietnamese had so much discipline compared
to many units and when they reached the end of the march, they stopped in formation and counted down in their
native language. When they were dismissed they moved straight to the barriers shaking hands with so many people, expressing
their thanks and to those of us carrying flags, we got an express of sorrow, telling us how sorry they were for our losses.
All NOK got a really nice letter from them too.
Then came the bikes.... So far I'd only met one or two and everytime
that I saw a VVMC member I kept thinking how was I going to find the time let alone manage to pass on Skip's messages. You
should have heard the uproar when they started coming down the road. The atmosphere around all of us was already charged but
with the roar of the bikes, and knowing that this was the final unit to march - or in this case, ride - down the Parade, the
feelings esculated even more. It was such a wild feeling. The whistles, the cheers were louder, everything seemed more pronounced
this time and I'm not kidding, but it was like a pressure valve going off.
After two hours of applause, my hands were stinging but
I felt like I had done my job. I had helped to welcome home every trooper through, helped every Vet there and those that weren't to
come home. My heart by this stage was swollen to bursting point. By the time the bikes were through there was a feeling
of success in me - I believed that we all had achieved in fulfilling every aspect of the weekend - that our own goals and
the Nation's goals had been dealt with today. I felt a part of these people and the weekend and it was nice to belong somewhere
for the first time in my life. It is a strange feeling to be alone and yet not be so at all and belonging to a crowd of 70
I have always been like a butterfly visiting one group to another,
having friends from each group without truly belonging. Now for the very first time, I have worked out where I do belong.
I have found the people who I feel that I can affiliate myself too - a common ground. These people that I am newly associated,
their friendship although just beginnning, is filling me, putting me onto a whole new destination - something I'd always known
I continued to walk up the Parade carrying my flag, my shoulders
back and head held high. I was walking taller than I ever had. This is how I carried myself for the whole weekend and as I
looked around, I noticed that there were so many others who walked in the same manner. I don't believe that it was just the
march even though some of these people had limps, tics, disabilities, etc - EVERYONE was so proud of this occassion. All weekend
people looked forward to tomorrow, needing today we talked to one and all. I noticed also, that everyone spoke
while looking people in the eye, not one person felt the need to "look away".
I was greeted by perfect strangers. "How're ya going? So glad
to see you here!" as they vigorously shook my hand, often not wanting to let go. The whole atmosphere was totally head spinning.
It was great having a licence to talk to as many people as I pleased, to whomever I wanted, when I liked. It
was overwhelming being able to mention "Vietnam" so often without argument, debate or hushing.
People seemed to think it was absolutely fantastic that I'd
come so far to be here and that I did so by myself. It was as if this fact alone made their warmth much more
pronounced, extra special as "this girl" came so far with none to accompany her so she could do her bit for the Vets and her
father. In a way I guess they all wanted to be there in my Dad's stead as my chaperone.
As I waited on the lawns of the War Memorial, my first moment
of quiet in hours, I still had people coming up to talk - a middle aged couple called out comments about how they were going
to join me as I looked so contented but look around as I was on candid camera. There I was being filmed by others, what a
blast. Again a feeling of being included amongst the many who participated today.
Speaking to the Vietnamese was more difficult as their accents
were quite thick yet I found their conversation interesting. Most had come over from Vietnam for the weekend and they
kept expressing their desire for better dealings between the two countries, especially in relation to the children that were
fathered by our men. There was no bitterness expressed just a desire and our talk was not all political.
Back home to my billotting and tiredness was hitting me - the
other lady sharing the billot hasn't really been too involved with events, spending her evenings quite happily in a lounge
chair watching the happenings on the tv. She didn't even bring her brother's flag. Each unto their own I guess.
Ian McQuire's wife and son picked me up for the Team Dinner
and even in the car the atmosphere was tingling. The dinner itself wasn't
as good as Friday night probably because it was more formal and many spent their time at the tables rather than intermingling.
Many too had to leave early the next day to travel unfortunately.
Shaz and I were very much still on a high though talking with
everyone and anyone. Shaz was at the Sydney Home Coming and had a lot to do with the VVA and the Counselling service, so I
found her a great source of information too.
I heard many stories tonight from many women, dependents
and widows, and how they believe that our men's soul have been reincarnated or soon will be. Maybe this war that "never was"
really was God's way to make people's attitudes change, for us all to see new things that we would never have considered otherwise.
The 60's and 70's were the years that New Age philosophy came about again. I don't agree with everything or with much of the
protests and antagonism but that's what this weekend is all about = Showing the world that after 20 years we will be the first
to lead the way to reform and to admit our mistakes. Time to repair the damaged opinions, to kick the critics up the ass and
to show the politicians that the time is overdue for their help. The march, the Memorial itself and definitely not the dedication
speeches can be the Government's "kiss off". It has to be the beginning of the aid and understanding. This point of view
is common amongst all that I talked to.
Everyone was in good spirits, which may have to do with the
wine carafe on the tables and plenty of chinese food. All talk seemed to be about the day rather than the past, so I'm glad
that I turned up last night as I probably wouldn't have got to know as much about Dad as I did.
I met Sir John and his wife - patrons of the AATTV, Richard
Rieter from the American Special Forces, Keith Payne and Peter Poulton and so many more. All of them expressed their sympathy
and well wishes for the family. These were only SOME of the big wigs this "girl" was to meet.
All night Ian McQ and Ross asked if I'm still being looked after.
How could I not? With so many men and women telling me about themselves, asking me questions and introducing me to more people
than I could hope to remember all their names, how on earth could I not be looked after?
I went around getting signatures of those that particularly
knew Dad. I guess I believed that no matter what I wanted, I wouldn't see them again after this night. Garth Hughes, the president
of the Team Association, is a nice bloke and has taken my address to put me on the mailing list. They're all pretty pissed
off that I found out about the Dedication Weekend through other avenues, swearing that it wont happen again. Their words!
I've been invited, many times over, to attend their birthday bash, to visit the HQ in Melbourne and the memorial in Queensland.
I've also been invited by people here, there and everywhere around Australia to visit. Even Richard expressed his help if
I get to the States from him and the other S.F. boys.
Shaz and family, Wallaby and myself were one of the last to
leave - who else heh? When I went back to Shaz's for coffee, the two of us just talked and talked. I was especially surprised
to learn that she too has had hassles over the years dealing with her relationship with her Mother, just like me and that
she's quite venomous when thinking of her Dad. Her bro walked around Friday and Saturday morning with his Dad's medals but
refused to march - apparantly he's got flat feet. He refused to come to the dinner for some reason. I'm not judging
here just telling my story of the weekend.
It's been a long day. I didn't end up getting home to the wee
hours and it's taking forever to unwind - to come down off my high. So many things happening and so many faces to remember
that it's all swimming around my head. I feel like there is an "air"
around me though. That my life has changed, is in the process of changing. Very insureal.
My heart's spinning with the reality of all that's gone on.
I've been longing for this weekend my whole life and my expectations were so high. How many people told me prior not to get
my hopes up? They were all wrong - I GOT EVERYTHING THAT I ASKED FOR AND MORE.
I've met people who have nothing to do with Dad but just as
much to do with the War. There were many stories about the Salvos and the respect that the serviceman has for them; about
how R & R was so important and the mischief they got up to. I honestly heard more stories than I could remember.
Tonight's over and my heart honestly feels as if it's glowing.
Can't you feel the heat? Everywhere I went today I found pieces of my past and met people to put into my future and that is
a wonderful feeling, a healthy feeling. I must be blessed to wait all these years to finally become involved with this Canberra
weekend. I don't exactly know how, but I know that I shall never be the same person again after this. Things inside of me
have changed and I can feel it so strongly. I can feel this with the very beat of my heart.
My last official function was the Duntroon Service and rain
threatened everything. So many "big wigs" here and most of us had to stand. Sitting in front of me were the two young Vietnamese
representatives for their NOK. As I was watching them I was remembering how as a kid I honestly thought I "was" prejudiced
against the Vietnamese. Funny how sometimes we don't get what we want but thank God later that we didn't. My prejudgism changed
my final year in school when as the only person understand any Vietnamese (because of my obsession of course) I had a girl
put under my care. She too was a victim of the war and I learnt real quick that it was the politicians that I'm angry
at not the individual people of a nation.
I felt Dad so closely with me today. It was as though through
the service he was standing sort of left and behind me. A couple times his hand would touch my shoulder as if as a gentle
reminder not to fidget. He felt so beautiful, so real and pure that for the first time I really believed that it was time
for him to go, to be let free; for me to give up past hurts and to start planning my future. It was definitely at this moment
when my past slammed into my future and for me to grow; to let it all go. There is still things that need to be
dealt with but these will be done with less bitterness, anger and as a healing process.
There was a digger sitting in a wheelchair directly to my left.
Every now and then I would see the "biggies" sitting/standing as instructed in their front row seats through the service.
I'd look back to this bloke, front then back vowing to myself that they must be paid their dues. This service and yesterday's
march can not be just for this weekend, ending here. It must be the beginning of the continuing aid.
As the service finished all the officials, the 12 clergymen
and the invited hierachy once again stood to leave. The wheelchair bound digger could not rise but looked at me and said,
"Now it can rain!" It did - all over these people.
By 2pm I was back in town changed into civvies ready for the
concert at the Old Parliament House grounds.
Walking into Old Parliament House itself was like walking into
Jesus's temple, like the movie - this quiet house of respect was full of hawkers and people wanting your money,
the noise was quite over-whelming. I couldn't believe the amount of people packed in. And the stuff for sale; I could've gone
berserk if I'd had more dough on me. There were things everywwhere - badges, wine bottles, flags, t-shirts, posters, badges
and more badges. And the press photos of which was the reason for me being in there.
Going past the press displays brought back these fresh memories.
Memories that were only a day or two old and already they were setting the mood for further reflections. Others were standing
there (all of us jostled by those who were impatient) and I believe that they were feeling much like me. It was so crowded in this hall that was use to being held in awe. I don't believe
the old girl had seen quite so many people within her walls.
Looking at the photos sent feelings through me that were still
pretty new and raw. Tears were springing to my eyes when I really didn't want them there today, not now. My official business
was over, my Dedication had been done on behalf of my family and I wanted to go to the grounds today for myself and my future;
not my past and here was such recent past memories already intruding. Looking around I saw others that looked like they were
trying to get a grip on themselves too.
I didn't have far (in the torential rain) to go to the front
of the stage area - there were over 10,000 people partying in a huge storm. I couldn't see anyone vaguely familiar so
I went back to the stage front for a better look. There was a large blue tarp set up crowded out with younger locals dominating
underneath. I wasn't far behind (with plenty of space around me as I was standing in the middle of a monster puddle that most
were avoiding) when the rain broke the hold of the tarp and all these "poor" people got washed. Me and many vets nearby laughed
as we felt it deserving - there were many vets etc especially those in wheelchairs who should've had the right to be up front.
I watched a couple acts, including "Big Pretzel" who did a go-go routine
in the costume she'd used in Vietnam. It didn't cover much. Apparently she'd been in Nam with 7 RAR and had one of the
boys on stage then, so once again she got a vet from the same lot back up on stage. Absolutely bloody funny. He had his pants
from the bottom pulled up, grass skirt over that, stomper boots, biggggg belly and this tiny red bikini thing with its own
You should have seen him move. Pretzel was able to swing one
tit at a time causing her tassles to twirl like a helicopter rotor. Then the other and then both in opposite directions; and
here was the digger trying to follow her lead. It was honestly one of the funniest things that i'd seen in a long time.
Another brief look around to find anyone I knew when I decided
what the heck. "It was my time." I'd done all that stuff for me, Dad, and the family and felt that i'd done well; that everyone
would've been proud of my representation. Now, solely it was time for me. I've got my style clothes on, no services I
needed to be at so I needed a beer! First one for the weekend, I knew it was time to act myself for myself.
So off to a beer tent I trot and did that first one go
down fast. When I saw some of the VVMC boys, I thought that now was the perfect opportunity to put more effort into finding
some of the SA Chapter lads to pass along Skip's messages. As much as I liked all these people I'd met so far, it was time
for me to find my "own" kind amongst the many who were already adopting me. I felt secure in the knowledge that I'd asked
just that thing off Dad before I went to sleep this morning and that it would happen. I felt safe.
I'd already asked a couple bikers the day before of the
whereabouts of SA boys but it really hadn't been the right time, especially in relation to my itinary. The
first lot today I talked to were from the States. They actually asked me if I wanted to go to Alice with them. They were so
wrapped to be here and full of praise for the Australian MC boys who'd looked after them.
So off I wandered again just talking away with people, walking
through puddles (which I could do with boots on now). I heard one woman behind me say, "If I catch you doing that, you're
in trouble". As I turned there's this lady telling her kids not to follow my example. Only then did I realise that I'd
walked through yet another monster puddle. The kids wanted to as well and I could only smile and shrug my shoulders at them.
More lads and more lads but non the SAus boys. Then I met
a bloke called Growler from Vic Chapter and ended up having a drink with him, Sparsky and Mad Dog amongst others. Now that
I'd stayed put, the SA boys found me - apparently it had got around already that some chick was looking for them, finally
I got to pass the messages along.
Talking to Sparsky and Ernie was a total laugh. It was bloody
cold and wet (remember '92 was the only time Bathurst was cancelled and we were partying in the same storm) but they're pissed
and standing there with just t-shirts. They didn't care, none cared. Conversation went on the lines of how women were offering
their bodies all weekend and yet they did the decent thing by refusing. Smart comments went back and forth between us. Upon
learning that I was representing my AATTV father, they all decided that was why I could handle myself, explaining how I could
be in Canberra on my own. Sparsky had been Team himself but had spent the weekend with his original unit - alot of men had
this choice to make i noticed.
Looking around at the people was interesting in itself let alone
enjoying the concert. There were so many from different walks of life and I was having a ball. People were singing away together,
greeting who ever, lots of hugs and plenty of smiles and cheer to go round ten times.
This was definitely one of the happiest and most carefree days
I've had for I don't know how long. The whole weekend has been mine and
to watch everyone else let their hopes and fears come out was like a dream come true. I was reminded of a Melanie song about
how we go in the same direction, we share the same back yard and how if she could gather everyone in the same room we would
see just this. We were in the same room and we enjoyed each others company regardless of status, race, sex or age.
Everyone was there for different reasons but those of us there
specifically for the Dedication had an opportunity to let go all the hurt, anxiety and even just the stress of the weekend's
formalities. We were able to let go of the rotten stuff and let in the good. We may all have been affected by the War in some
way for all this time but today we were together to share in a memory of a happier moment in time, to make it all an easier
time in life to bear.
Hardly anybody talked aobut the tough times, the horrors - it
was all about the jokes they pulled, how many times they "got away with it" and their charge sheets, etc. These were the things
now that we need to think about.
John Schumann came onto the stage then and everything changed.
Men were crying, and people were now quite sober, all hugging or holding someone. "Only 19" is DEFINITELY the Vet's own song.
Apart from some of the local yobbo's, everyone was pulled together with eyes to the stage. If I was anywhere else I would
cever have cried because of a song. Hiding your head and discreetly getting rid of the tears composing yourself
would've been more the norm. I've never really seen men openly hug each other, some kissing, with tears and open
honest emotion. Here were these grown men and the rest of us letting our hearts be open.
We were wet, some wearing garbage bags, plastic wrap for
ponchos or with bits hanging out the back of hats to keep the rain off, others with red ink running down their faces
looking like blood. Talk about a motley bunch and here's me standing with a whole pack of bikers now - trust me.
I let it out how I'd had all this room before so we moved
to the very front of the stage. Well we thought we'd take the same advantage of this as we all had boots on and ended up with
the best spot to watch the end of the show.
Things changed for me then. I could tell that this was it, my
destiny had changed. I was amongst a crowd that I finally felt at home with. Finally.
I was behind a fella in a wheelchair who I was helping to bop
along with the music by holding up the front of his chair and chatter, g'days and slingoffs were going back and forth from
those on stage to us (and so were the beer cans). I loved it.
I guess we all knew in a way that things were ending and the
spirits did join and be as one in our final send off. Everyone was standing up and out of the tents, pouring out of the Parliament
house for the last section of the concert, even the rain stopped now . It was our final chance to say welcome home all those
that had been in Nam, showing our continual support, to be as one with those here this weekend.
By the time all the artists come back on stage, the crowd was
in such a happy, frenzied mood. I never saw one scuffle through the whole weekend and definitely not today. It was all
And then it was over.
For those that gathered later, it was a time for reflection,
to talk openly and honestly about the weekend and what was seen, done and thought of. The healing has started and now it is
up to us to use it in whichever way is needed.
Monday - Feeling totally sated I was on my way home
As I flew home the next morning I was going over everything,
feeling very drained. The two ladies next to me had been in Canberra for a son and brother. We chatted and remarked about
how lovely a weekend it'd been and how alive everything seemed to be. Expense did not seem to be a problem for most. Not today
anyway, "We'll worry about that later" attitude. Damn I even sold my antiques to pay for this. Nothing mattered except being
positive about the War, to kiss our loved ones, our mates goodbye and to acknowledge a misjustice against those that came
This flight was via Melbourne this time and by now I was completely
wacked and wanting only to get home. I sat in the lounge waiting area and zoned out, until I heard the 11AM program on the
TV mentioning the Dedication. That's when I remembered that it was Monday and I'd not watched a single thing on
the box for days, not even about the Reunion.
As I'd been sitting with my back to the TV, I stood and turned.
My eyes completly transfixed on the screen and I'd blocked out everything around me except the screen's images. The feelings
that went through me, I find hard to explain. I was still aware that I was at the airport, that I was standing but I
felt that my spirit was in that TV screen. It wasn't a short report, went on for 30 minutes so I was obsorbed in the
programme - I had been there and that pleased me no end and as the report changed to another part of the Dedication weekend
I followed with my heart. I'd been there!!!! This was all about me and the very people I'd shared so much with.
I felt proud for that and I'd like to think that it has helped
me deal with a lota of shit. I was standing there blessing all those that helped me get there. I wished that there had been
a way for everyone to have had the opportunity to go.
When the program finished, I looked down for a moment 'til I
remembered that I was standing in a public place so I sat again, looking around as I did so. What a complete surprise to realise
that there were all these people looking at me. Our plane had been delayed by now there were now quite
a few waiting. I'm not sure what I saw in their faces but it wasn't scorn, not any of the smart arse shit that used to come
hand in hand with the subject of Vietnam. Maybe things will change, maybe people's attitudes are changing already if
the look on these people's faces who were NOT at Canberra is anything to go by - hopefully that means that finally we have
won our war.
Well Bro, this is my story. With the weekend over I knew with
a certainty that I'd just flown home to the start of my new future and that of Snow's grandson too. I knew that it could only
get better, that I've finally been given an opportunity to bury my past. I hope I captured everything for you and you enjoy
As A Postscript to this Journal I would like to add that the vetman I'd met, I ended up moving
interstate for within months and then marrying 7 yrs later (Dedication anniversary weekend of course) - who
else but a Vietnam Veteran to understand the needs of someone who's life had been swallowed up by the War and Vietnam
Since 1992 I have become very much involved with SVn veteran issues etc, have had multiple catchups
with Team and others, meeting many more along the way. I revisit Anzac Parade many k's away and her wonderful
memorials on a regular basis, it's my favourite place and I love trying to outdo myself in photos every time. (The police
know me well as they've often asked me why I'm hanging around, especially at dawn)
I've been able to visit my Dad's grave many times since '92 (only once previously) which is quite a trip
from where I'm at, in turn then reunited, ever so closely, to the few that were left of his family. (Miss you Alex)
And so much more.
I knew that Canberra was going to change my life - it did!
I'm still just as obsorbed into the subject of "Vietnam" as I ever was - these days though I travel the
road with less hurt, confusion and anger than I'd done before and with compassion, many times reassuring vetmen
that their guilt is not warranted, that it was ok to survive, I'd never realized how many were scared to confront a family
member or how it literally scared them shitless. Today I have more tolerance for the NOK themselves, myself included - parents,
wives, children, brothers and sisters.
Since '92 I spread the word (and can) without fear of repercussions and when I meet a moritorum protestor
(who like many vets re-live the days of yesterday) I am not 10 anymore and I'm well informed with facts.
Every year now I march Anzac and Long Tan days wherever I may be - before Canberra '92 I'd hadn't
marched since I was 10 - 1974 Anzac Day Sydney, they tried to shove me at the back of the march with the general crowd wanting
Vietnam swallowed up except for one army bloke who tried to compensate by saying how well I was do so, that my father would
have been proud of me that day.
I'm watching people I've known all my life who've avoided dealing with "Vietnam" themselves properly
finally confront it - many are still dealing with it in various ways, me and mine too.
Today I educate others in the need to participate in our commemorative days, tell, listen and/or record
the stories, to have pride in our heritage, to stand tall for your service and efforts. I found myself with a renewal
of patriotic pride and today fly the Aussie flag wherever/whenever I can. I wear medals when appropriate and lapel pins
at other times and even know the words to the Aussie Anthem because I believe that 'til we change it we should show allegiance
Then I found the internet and have websites with my contribution to the subject. My biggest fear at
the Dedication Weekend '92 was that the Government would see all that pomp and media as being the "royal kissoff". Thankfully
today it can't and with a new generation of "veterans" they will never receive the treatment that those of the Vietnam
Lest We Forget Amen