At Wagga I stood at
At Wagga I stood at a bar with three other men, two of whom had lost one eye in Vietnam while the other was totally blind. He had a magnificent black Labrador as his companion. The dog sat at his feet all of the four days of the reunion patiently listening to the the same stories I’m sure he’s heard a thousand times before. A tiny splinter of shrapnell has severed my friends optic nerve and although his eyes are perfect the braion doesn’t know. One of the others told me a story of a barroom brawl that had happened when he was young and angry. In the bathroom at the bar he had got involved in an altercation with a peacenik and had headbutted him in frustration. This action had dislodged his glass eye and it was pointing hard to port. He wasn’t aware of this and when he went back to the bar his good eye was pointing straight ahead while his glass eye was glaring at the rough character to his left who started another conversation with the oft-head precursor to brawls “What are you staring at you bastard?” Time to go home. I met Kerry who I had last seen in Vietnam in the same platoon as myself. One night, whilst on sentry duty he set the standard for all sentries when he waited for the approaching enemy to come within one meter before he initiated contact. At one meter he fired, guaranteeing a hit that unfortunately struck a pack of C4 explosives the Vietcong was carrying in satchel on his chest. The explosion robbed Kerry of his eye, wounded his mate and splattered the rest of us with gore. Kerry was demobbed back to Australia and has got on with life, albeit with a one eyed view. I met Reginald Bandy, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Battalion in 1970. He left his home in Western Australia in 1942 to help stem the flow of the Japanese in the Pacific. By wars end he was a platoon sergeant and went on to serve in Morotai where the Royal Australian Regiment (the Australian Army’s regular infantry) was formed from battalions of the Second AIF (Australian Infantry Forces) He stayed overseas and eventually fought in the Battle of Kapyong in Korea. I asked him what part he played in this battle. He said he was a platoon sergeant but actually operated as a platoon commander because “We were running out of Lieutenants” His mother complained to the Minister for the Army that she hadn’t seen her son for ten years and he was brought straight back home to a posting Instructing new officers. Well he could, couldn’t he. He went on to serve in Malaya, Borneo and was one of the experienced Warrant Officers that formed the initial draft of the Australian Army Training Team in 1965 that became the most decorated unit ever to serve overseas under the Australian flag. In 1970 he lent his experience to officers and NCOs in the 7th Battalion in Vietnam. If Australian soldiers have a good reputation it is because of men like Reg Bandy. At the reunion this month he played golf most days and went for a walk in the mornings. He was 80 last birthday. I see Yobbo is discussing great Australians and whereas I don’t disagree with any mentioned in Yobbos’s weblog or in others I will say I have known some great Australians and the comon theme amongst them is that they wore the uniforms of the military and all had heard the call of the bugle.