February 2024
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Deja Vu Vietnam Veterans: I Was Only 19

Nikos Deja Vu – Redgum – I Was Only 19 (Vietnam… by n000k

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, Shoalwater before we left. And Townsville lined the footpaths 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 pinups on the lockers. And an Asian orange sunset through the scrub. And can you tell me, doctor, why I stil 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 ninteen.

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 Godal mighty 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. Til the morphine came and killed the bloody row.

And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears. And the 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.

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