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We sent them off to fight in a far off distant land

 

DID YOU SERVE IN VIETNAM?

 

We put all the dates on marbles and we drew them one by one

That’s how the Government decided just who would take up the gun

And if your birthday coincided, you received a telegram

That meant you would be trained and sent to fight in Vietnam

A living hell’s what faced you if your number had been drawn

And many conscripts wished to hell they never had been born

For no matter what these fellas thought, they were in a no-win situation

Were they fighting for Australia, or invading someone else’s nation.

 

They trained here in Australia, then were packed off overseas

To be shot at, bombed and booby-trapped by the Vietnamese

And to do the same to Viet-cong before they did it to you

No-one liked what they were doing but it was what they had to do.

Burn the villages, kill the cattle, ignore the horrors you had seen

Spending months in sweaty jungles, without getting to feel clean

Wading swamps and climbing mountains to get an edge upon the foe

Then attack and take no prisoners – just the same as G I Joe

 

You got letters from your family, but the papers were not sent

Perhaps some clippings now and then, and you wondered what that meant

But your families tried to hide you from the headlines over here

For you didn’t have the backing of the people far and near.

You risked your lives most every day, and orders you obeyed

As ours Diggers had done in the past, that’s how heroes had been made

And you saw your mates as heroes in the things they had to do

Though what they did while “over there” was no different to you.

 

Your girlfriend didn’t wait for you – “well, who knows if he’ll come back?”

And you lost some darn good mates in an enemy attack

But the damage that would hurt you most was not from the Viet Cong

More the Aussies who took to the streets, proclaiming you were wrong

You fought your fears most every day, and every night as well

Tried every trick to stay alive, and bring back stories you could tell

But when you came back to Australia, you were not held up on high

You were scorned and classed as outcasts – and you did not know why.

 

The horrors that had etched your mind were eating at you still

As if you hadn’t had enough – you’d more than had your fill

You should have been held as heroes –it’s what you had expected

But now you were political pawns, far worse than just neglected.

Some mates who’d fought beside you, when you were “over there”

Went off the rails when they came home and no-one seemed to care

While others shrunk inside themselves - to not come out again

With nothing like it was before, and that was very plain.

 

The stories you brought back with you, you’ve never told as yet

Now you wish you didn’t have those tales, although you can’t forget

For those who were not there with you in that hellish foreign land

Could never in a million years even part way understand

And I wonder, what can I do, as one who wasn’t there

To help you feel accepted, to let you know I care

To let you know that we were wrong – those back home I mean

And to put you on the pedestal where you should have always been

 

I’m not a man of influence, but I’ll do the best I can

To keep you on par with every honoured Aussie man

Who has done the best he could’ve as each circumstance demands

For I’m proud of what you fellas did, and I’m proud to shake your hands.

 

Jeff Cook