Philip Earle: My Mate

It was both touching and edifying to run into some of the surviving members of the 8th Battalion who fought in Vietnam in 1969-70 and who were ‘celebrating’ the 40th anniversary of the Battalion’s raising with, amongst other things, a few beers at Olims Hotel the other night.

The fellow in the photo above told how, having joined up with a naive spirit of patriotism, he returned to Australia feeling he’d been tricked into a stupid senseless war. It was 1995 before he overcame his reservations and joined his former comrades in commemorating their service days.

Not all his mates shared his views and there was a very frank exchange at one stage as another vet (who refused to be photographed) expressed his opinion that the Vietnam War had successfully stalled the ‘Domino Effect’ in South East Asia and was well worth waging. A slimy looking bugger he was too, unlike the sterling fellow above with his charming handlebar.

Some words were spoken about the treatment Vietnam Vets received when they returned, virtual pariahs, to a country ungrateful for their sacrifices. It was an awful case of shooting the (admittedly armed and dangerous) messenger in my opinion, one that has done current anti-war efforts a disservice in providing ammunition to those (more in the US than here) who claim peaceniks don’t ‘support the armed forces’.

Other words were spoken about the eerie similarities of recent developments in the Middle East to the Vietnam days, and the folly of sending off more young men on imperial adventures.

Politics may have briefly raised its ugly head but the general tone of the evening was one of camaraderie, happy drunkenness, dirty jokes and complaints about how dry it is in Boggabri/Cunnanurra/Goulburn. There was even a little dancing.

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