I attended another one of the annual Vietnam Veterans Church Parades at St Paul’s Cathedral today. It was also a good excuse to have lunch with my old mate Ken at Young and Jacksons Hotel opposite on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. Construction work is well under way to build a new underground railway and the buildings on either side of Y&J’s have been demolished and are now occupied by earthmoving equipment and pile drivers.
It was rather weird having a service at the side of the Cathedral near the plaque remembering those who served in both Korea and Vietnam while dozens of tourists wandered around the Cathedral. Most were Chinese and I’m sure that none of them had any idea about what was taking place. The minister, Rev. Chris Carolane, invited those in the Cathedral to join us and a couple of people did come and sat in nearby pews. He gave a very appropriate address about how valuable it was to have peace around the world and how we all played our part in keeping it.
I was rather taken by this poem that was written by a Ned Falconer of D Company, & Battalion of the Royal Australia Regiment and read during the service. With a very slight adaptation, it went like this
WHAT MY MEDALS MEAN
I’d never worn my medals – they were left there in the drawer.
So when I finally took them out, it had been twenty years or more.
My grand daughter saw me take them out and asked me what they’re for.
I looked at her and calmly said “They’re a reminder of a war.
They remind me of the men I knew – who never made it back,
who died in a stinking paddy field or on a jungle track.
They remind me of the troubles and the hardships we went through,
they remind me why we were there; it was for people just like you.
They remind me of the hellhole while we were over there,
they remind me of our countrymen who really didn’t care.
They remind me of the mateships forged in a foreign land,
they remind me of a certain mate who lost the whole of his hand.
They remind me when we went away, we thought the cause was just,
they’re to remind me of when we came back, they turned their backs on us.
They remind me of the time we spent left there all on our own,
they remind me that it took twenty years to welcome us back home.
They remind me of all the suffering, the heartache and the pain,
they’re to remind me if we’re called upon, we’d do it all again.
They remind me when I wear them next; the thoughts will come again,
at the going down of the sun and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
Then, I looked at her smiling face and I knew it had not got through.
I said “Listen Love, they’re to remind me – I did it all for you.”