Sunday 5 October 2008

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Jack’s story

© John Sawyer – June 2007
Another episode in
1001 Pots - Conversations overheard in pubs

I've been reading that Les Carlyon book about the Great War. Pretty horrific. It actually makes me angry what those Generals did to the soldiers.

Anyway, I read this bit and was reminded of our discussion about migrants and multi-culturalism the other day. This bloke named Gottlieb Schuler was the editor of the AGE during the first war. He'd arrived in Australia as a young kid and by the time the war started he'd been editing the paper for 15 years. His son was at Gallipoli and died in the trenches in France, but they still ran a whispering campaign against him - the bastards. Just because of his name and where he was born.

Nothing changes mate.

You know one of the first books I read when I was promoted to the adult section of the library was a book called something like "The Donkeys and the Lions". The lions were the front line soldiers. The donkeys were the bloody generals.

I was still in Primary School I reckon.

The military never learn.

I once worked with this bloke, my boss, Polish. He was pretty smart. We were standing in the courtyard at work, both a bit upset about the Indonesian Military killing a whole lot of people in Timor, Dili I think. A Massacre!

"What a waste of humanity. One of those people might have found a cure for cancer if they'd been allowed to live."

...(We all look at the wall)

At this same place one of the kids I managed came in one day, all excited. Greek he was, a citizen soldier when he wasn't writing software.

"I'm just letting you know that my unit has been called to Timor as part of the peacekeeping force and I won't be in next week. We're going as volunteers."

Well I was pretty shocked. What do you say? I was torn. Australia needs to help its neighbours, but this kid might die. He doesn't even understand the danger.

I quizzed him to see if he really wanted to go. In the end I offered my personal support and told him his job would be here when he got back.

I was pretty upset. What with protesting the war in Vietnam and everything.

Anyway he's back in next day and comes into my office all sheepish and shuts the door. "I'm not going to Timor and I'm leaving the army."

What happened?

"My mum had a heart attack when I told her. We were in St. V's all night. Everyone was screaming at me, I was really in the shit. You can imagine a Greek family when they're upset. My brothers threatened to belt me up, but that didn't worry me, I can handle them. But it was pretty bad mate. I eventually told mum that I wouldn't go."

How's your mum now?

"She's OK now, at home recovering."

I wonder how serious the illness really was. Mum had found a way of keeping her son safe. I am still torn each time I think of this.

Here have another beer mate.


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