Those Left Behind
Last week’s meeting in the country,
With Richard Lloyd’s dad;
Spoke with Noack’s and Bailey’s,
Forever bitter and sad.
Old Mr. Grant at the grave-side,
Whose son died at Long Tan;
Tragic scene of him there,
Medal ‘reward’ in his hand.
Old men like these and their wives,
A few decades have passed by,
Parents ignored and neglected,
In shame I ask: “Why?”
Hundreds of ‘boys’ K.I.A,
Exact number of wounded, who knows?
Mainly mere ‘cannon fodder’,
And around half were ‘Nash-os’.
Stoic faces in those crowds,
Every April I see;
Haunting ghosts of my guilt,
Asking why their sons and not me?
Far too old now, myself,
Although three sons are in line,
To be called to a war zone,
Parental concern is now mine.
To the victors go the spoils,
Yet, ’tis the pain any less?
Vietnamese old folk shared the glory,
Little comfort in that, I would guess.
A token thanks and just memories,
To help carry their cross,
Of loneliness and heartache;
Poor rewards for such loss.
So I reflect on their pain,
How they’ve all coped, so alone,
Since the main light in their life,
Was snuffed out in their home.
Tragedy worst in all wars,
Despite the many you’d find,
Grief never ending for all those,
Families of dead, left behind.
Ernie Grant's father at his son's grave site. (Courtesy of Contact by Lex McAulay
This is a tribute poem to all those parents who were treated so badly after the war. Their incomprehensible loss was compounded with their shameful neglect by their government and the Australian community and from the isolating attitudes of family, friends and acquaintances. There was no compensation, little empathy and certainly no memorials or monuments to their sacrifice, other than their young son’s gravestone. In some cases, if the soldier was buried overseas, they never even got that!
“In peace, children inter their parents. War violates this
order of Nature and causes parents to inter their children.”
- Herodotus, 439 B.C.
Those Left Behind