by Lee O’Neill
Look, there he goes again, that dumb vet,
down the road to get drunk again I bet.
Wonder why he does it, day after day?
How can he go on living in this way?
I’ve heard he had a pretty good life,
even had a family, two kids and a wife.
They ended up leaving him; they’d had enough,
of all his drinking, rages and stuff.
Yet down at the pub, he is always so quiet,
Drinks all alone never causing a riot.
He keeps pretty much to himself, never has much to say,
It seems he is just existing, living from day to day.
I haven’t seen that vet lately, it’s been a few days;
maybe he is sleeping it off in an alcoholic haze.
I heard that vet is dead, he blew himself away,
Now the town is full of vets, his funeral is today.
At the pub after his funeral, they told me his story.
And the story they told me wasn’t just another warrie.
It seems he was a hero, saved others in a real tight spot,
not a thought for himself, though the situation was hot.
He managed to save them all, except his best mate,
they said by the time he got to him, it was too late.
They said he never got over it and pulled right into his shell,
And ever since then, he has been living a life of pure hell.
I wish I’d gotten to know him he sounded like a decent bloke,
but I was too busy with my life and so we never spoke.
Now I know the truth, I’ll never turn my back on another vet,
I want to say I’m truly sorry and I will, the first chance I get.
Most of us still don’t know the part Aussies and New Zealanders played in Vietnam. They got a crummy Area of Operations along Cambodian and Laotian borders. Had they not been well trained and well led, they would not have handled their part Vietnam so well.
Lee served with the 110th Signal Battalion, Australian Army in Vietnam as a Lieutenant, retiring as a Captain. He is currently a fireman.
ATR/NS Erick Miller
About the Author:
Contrary to popular belief I was born!!! I was born in Perth on 13th July 1942 to Claude Leyshon Charlton and Norma Gladys O’Neill. My mother and father had planned to be married in December 1941,the HMAS Sydney’s last escort duty up the coast of WA. Unfortunately the Sydney was lost with all hands, 645 men, including five RAAF personnel, when she encountered HSK Kormoran a German raider on the night of 19 November 1941, of the coast of WA somewhere out from Pt Gregory, just north of Gerladton.
My mother moved to Geraldton when I was about two years old and met my stepfather Bill White. He treated me like his own son and he was the only father I knew. I had three half sisters and one half brother but the youngest sister was killed by a drunken driver not long after I returned from Vietnam. The others are still living in and around Geraldton.
I grew up in the countryside around Geraldton and loved the bushlife, something which has never left me. In fact I actually started off my schooling by correspondence school.
I left school at the age of 14 and worked on a milkrun for a while then got a job in a fish processing factory as Geraldton is reknown for it’s lobster or crayfish as they are called in WA.
At the age of 19 I joined the Army and on passing out of rookies I was sent to Infantry. I spent four years in Infantry in 1 Battalion and 4 Battalion. While in 4 Bn my troop comd and coy comd decided I had officer potential and I was virtually bulldozed into attending officer cadet school at Portsea, Victoria. I graduated with one shiny pip into R A Signals and was sent to Sydney to a Sig Squadron. From there I went to 1 Sig Regt and then to 110 Sig Sqn Vietnam. On return I was promoted to Captain and posted to 6 Sig Regt in Melbourne. From there I went to the Directorate of Service Conditions in Canberra which was a non corps posting. From there I went to Sydney and after 20 years I resigned my commission. I took up a job driving for a living then later bought a mowing and gardening business which was going really well until I woke up one day in August 2000 in lala land and was put into a clinic for five weeks. I was then told that my working days were over and I was put on TPI status.
Along the way I married three times, had five kids,(all grown up) and divorced twice.
While in 1 Bn I got screwed around by several officers and as a result had a rather low opinion of them. It stood me in good stead though as when I was selected fpr Officer Cadet School, I made myself a vow that I would make my number one priority the welfare of my men. That is something I am proud to say I maintained right through my career. I was not popular with my superiors and in some cases my peers and it was once said of me, “He is somewhat of a maverick officer with a penchant for espousing the truth”. It cost me promotion as I was fully qualified for major but resigned as a captain and I was told I would never be promoted. Still I have no regrets for the way I conducted myself as I still have the respect and friendship of my soldiers.
I am now living in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains with my wife Lindy and my Aust Cattle Dog Pax.