The Doust Files – Albany Advertiser 26/3/2011

Anzac Day is no longer the day it was when I wore short pants, long socks and a baggy cap and I am almost ready to join a throng paying their respects to those who are forever with us but no longer here.

Usually I pay my respects in the privacy of my own home, quietly, when no-one is around to hear me whisper to those I have known.

Unfortunately, my public Anzac Days were scarred at a very early age by people in authority who failed to adequately explain its significance, others in authority who engaged in inappropriate discipline and occasional ugly behaviour in public drinking houses.

As luck would have it, when my marble went in the Vietnam barrel it stayed low but being an Australian male imbued with a spirit of adventure and a need to inhabit a conflict somewhere, anywhere, I made my way to Israel.

I arrived early in 1973, fell in love with a soldier whose father chased me out of town, withered in exile and returned during the October War to work on a communal farm bereft of able bodied men and women and where all work was carried out by older men and women, volunteers, school children and soldiers home on leave.

I worked the orchards and because the manager knew I was Australian he gave me an M16 and a pistol and every day on the trek out to the fields I either drove or rode shotgun. In the middle of the night I stuck the pistol in my pants and guided a spraying machine up and down rows of apple trees.

Luck stayed with me and I never took a bullet, although one was aimed at me but missed as I hit the dirt and scrambled. My life was spared again by a man who shoved a shotgun in my mouth while I slept on private property not far from Tiberias. He thought I was an invader.

There were other incidents but the luck continued and I experienced nothing approaching the intense and relentless horror of war known to too many. My three years in Israel left me with a very clear view that living in a permanent state of war was no place to bring up children.

Something else stayed with me. It is that if a nation asks men and women to kill or be killed on its behalf, that when those warriors return home the warring nation should acknowledge that no soul leaves a war unscarred and it should guarantee life-long care.

Look out for me next year. I’ll wear a hat.

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