Opinion – On Parade Memorable Gatherings

                              No matter when or where, an invitation for a reunion of warriors creates magic warmth which spreads quickly and reaches out far and wide.  It is a time when the night before such an event, young veterans are already mingling at the rendezvous, while older ones at home still preparing, and doing their best to ignore aching bones and disobedient legs.

A warning order for a reunion is always a powerful medicine that brings back memories of youth, camaraderie, unit pride and achievements, to mention a few, be it peace or war.

That same medicine also helps old soldiers to stand tall, and there is always a chance those old legs and feet will obey and respond accordingly, even if for just a short time. 

Often there is a bonus when members of the current generation of military, wearing the familiar beloved badge with pride and strong sense of purpose, are in the gathering. The Regiment’s strong genes are evident. Many of its active family have already been on operations, and now with a new generation of trained warriors, elements of the Regiment are always ready for deployment. Old familiar sub unit logos can be seen. Even the beloved Phantom, despite being banned due to political correctness (because he can never die) surfaces once more.

The young soldiers deserve recognition. Training for war is not an easy task, particularly when the threat is not known. It requires immense discipline and leadership to ensure sense of purpose and standards are never eroded.

Reunions are a time for much, bantering, hugging, laughing and an arena where reasonable exaggeration is permitted.   It is also a time to honour the fallen and those who have since joined them. I have no doubt they will be all be hovering here and there, watching and listening.

Due to the uninvited virus, many gatherings for 2020 were cancelled. It is all the more reason for all of those who wear the badge to answer the roll call next year, or be marked absent by one of the cranky sergeant majors flourishing red pens. Being AWL* will require a very good excuse.    

*Absent without leave

           Memorable and Proud Gatherings    

Old comrades, be they ghosts or living, are on parade
Familiar smiling faces never to fade
Once, all dressed in khaki, mottled cloth or jungle green
Bent with heavy packs of Canberra’s false promises, it seems
Much laughter, and gone the sound of battle and its unknown
No more hasty prayers or reaching out in sleep for loved ones at home 
Together again, no matter where the winds of war have blown 

Many empty pockets where Canberra gold coins should have been
Troubled minds and wounded bodies beyond repair to be seen
Others absent for years are coming by road, air and with the tide
To be there with old comrades who gather from far and wide
to embrace, and yarn with all who served, side by side
To recall fond tales with happy banter galore  
Excited to be with each other; and— just one drink more  

As shadows fall, silence hushes all
They listen to a bugle sobbing for those who gave all
Wet faces and memories flow with the sunset call
The gathering ends with hugs and even more tears
Promises to be at the gathering in following years
To once more be on parade to answer “Present” at roll call  
Ghosts or mortals, marching in the column, in step and standing tall          All for one and one for all 

George Mansford ©April 2020

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