John Beck

John was an Australian Vietnam Veteran who died of cancer – circa 2004

Long Tan Day – 18th August 1994

The 1st of Feb, 66 to most would not mean much;
To me and many other lads it had a special touch
The 7th intake needed me; my marble had come up
So off I went to do my bit; I was twenty – just a pup.

I had no thoughts of politics (I didn’t see the need)
My concern was girls and mates, and bikes with lots of speed
I hardly read the papers then – the news was on T.V.
And Harold Hold and L.B.J. were foreign names to me

Well, there I was like all the rest; they checked my every part.
The checked my eyes, my ears, my feet; they listened to my heart.
I passed their tests in every way (it didn’t make me grin)
But then again, to fail the tests would sort of be a sin.

Next thing I knew I found myself on a bluddy train to “Pucka”
I thought, “Should I run away – no – don’t be such a sucker!”
So there I was, stripped of clothes – dressed in baggy greens
Like some stupid bluddy “Rambo” from a movie scene.

The next ten weeks were living hell – they really put us through it
We had to change from boys to men, and deep inside we knew it.
The main skill that we learned there was to be part of a team
And when at last we all marched out, the training could be seen.

We spend some time in other corps learning other skills
There’s more to life than marching, and other Army drills
The three weeks at the jungle school, “Canungra” is its name
It was pretty rough at times – just like a big war game.

Next step was in Vietnam, to “Vungers” or “The Dat”
The “blunt end” or the “sharp end” depends on which end you’re at
Twelve long months we stayed there; some for a little less,
For some it wasn’t too bad – for others, what a mess!

And when your time was over and you were homeward bound
You often thought about your mates still stuck there on the ground.
The gunships flew low overhead, the A.P.C.s rolled on
The tents, the guns, the mortars… the 500 who have gone

And even when I got back home, I’m sure I’m not alone;
The sound of a chopper overhead still chills me to the bone.
The rattle of a hammer drill gives me quite a fright;
It takes me back to all those days, and all the sleepless nights

Like most, I’ve had a fight or two since I’ve been back in Oz.
I know no-one can understand the way things were because
What can you say to one when they can never learn
What it’s like to hear it said, “What babied did you burn?”

I had to get out of town; I couldn’t hold a job;
I got on the grog a bit; I soon became a slob.
I couldn’t be in company, I had to be a roamer;
The self-imposed track I took made me quite a loner.

Things are getting better now; the rashes and the dreams;
I’ve had my share of counselling and life it what is seems
The war’s been over years now; should never have begun.
I know it’s wrong, but it’s hard to take that we never won.

Things are all quite settled now; I seldom lose my lot
But now and then my wife is there to keep me on the spot
I still enjoy my motor bike – I’m riding with the club/
I wear the Vietnam Veterans Patch – they are a t’riffic mob.

The kids are both twenty now – they’ll never understand
My wife, she’s great – she stands by me when I need a hand
We’ve had our Defence War service Loan – life is pretty sweet
I reckon that we’ve earned it though – now we’re on Civvy Street!