ANZAC Day has always been a significant day in my family. For as long as I can remember on ANZAC Day we would awake to find Dad(1) gone, only to ‘find him again’ marching down the main street in Grafton in the ANZAC Day march. It took some years to fully understand why he was marching, but once we did, my sister and I could understand the significance of recognising those who have served in our armed forces.
I have recently interviewed Dad as part of an oral history assignment, and although he has spoken in great detail before about his horrific experiences in Vietnam, the interview gave us the opportunity to explore in detail about his experiences after the war. Many people, some of them surprisingly RSL members who had fought in World War II, did not believe that Vietnam Veterans should be welcomed into their clubs or to march on ANZAC Day. I am thankful that Dad’s father and my Pa, George Henry James PEARSON, who had fought in World War II took Dad along with him to the local RSL club and to the local ANZAC Day marches. Some of Pa’s mates did not agree, and according to Dad that upset Pa a great deal. I think what surprises me most about the WWII diggers not accepting my father into the RSL club was that he had been blown up by a booby trap in Vietnam, and nearly lost a leg amongst many other injuries. In Dad’s words, taken from the recent oral history interview I did with him.
Oh, a couple of ‘em reckoned that we weren’t in a real war. They’d fought in the Second World War even though they probably, some of them might never have fired a shot in anger, they still reckon that the Second World War was, a big war but, Vietnam was just something that was just a skirmish or something. They didn’t realise what was going on over there and – one of my father’s good mates said, ‘Oh you weren’t in a real war’, you know, and that upset Dad a fair bit. So they didn’t really – I don’t think they realised for years until they found out that we were having a lot of problems with our nerves and people getting wounded and killed and whatever else and then they thought it’s pretty fair dinkum over there, you know. (2)
Recording Dad’s experiences from Vietnam, and afterwards, is something I have considered doing for quite a while. I’m very happy to have finally done so. I regret that we have none of Pa’s experiences recorded from WWII. He virtually never spoke about it and is now no longer with us.
Today, and every ANZAC Day, is a day to remember all of those who have contributed to the protection of our country. There have been so many, and with conflicts still occurring today, there are and will be more. We must remember those who have already served, but we also must recognise those that are still serving and will need our recognition and empathy in the years ahead.
We will remember them.
(1) I have not included Dad’s name because he is still alive and well. Actually, how well he is this morning I am not sure because he is commemorating ANZAC Day with his mates from 5RAR, C Company in Portland, Victoria. Happy ANZAC Day to you boys!
(2) Oral History Interview conducted with ‘Dad’ by Tanya Honey on 6 April 2012 at Byron Bay.