Colin F. Jones

FROM MY DIARY

As I recall it, we did not return home expecting a welcome, other than by our family members, but when we did get back the absence of a welcome home brought it to mind. It was somewhat strange having been yesterday in a war, and today being back in the most peace aware country on Earth, Australia.

Arriving home was a bit like a dream; one seemed to have moved from a world of bedlam into one of silence. It was a bit like being in shock, where everything around you was a bit ‘unreal’.

I had a year left to serve, and I served it training a new gun crew to go back; to do it all over again.

What was the point?

The war in Vietnam was for some, very violent and very real. For us it was a lot of never ending hard work, constant pressure, fear, and depression caused by living in holes in the ground, and engaging the enemy almost every day, pounding his bunker systems, his mortar base plates and counter rocket systems.

While the concussion of the recoiling guns pushed the adrenalin to great heights, it also bathed us in a strange world of cordite and temporary deafness. The excitement at times was very great, particularly where our fire missions were conducted in desperation to knock out the enemy rocket sites before they were able to get a line on us.

We had our moments, and the dreadful fear which overcomes the body, when the mind is expectant of an attack, when the lead is flying, is something to experience. Worse is the cold calmness which follows; one is no longer afraid; the body seems not to feel anything, other than this awful overwhelming shroud of cold calmness.

When the action stops and the fight does not come; the enemy battered withdraw; the flares die, Snoopy flies away and the infantry in front of us lie shivering in the sludge and mire of the jungle, the cold calm drains from us like drying sweat; great tiredness envelopes us; the fear returns; the reality of our surroundings becomes evident; the hot guns still smoke, pale in the darkness, which becomes absolute as the last flare dies and silence prevails, and we are almost human again.

It is then we are aware of the ebb and flow of the bodies chemicals, which despite ourselves, takes us to realms beyond our normal being, then sheds us like an outer skin, to leave us shocked, less able to laugh, love; and changed in an indescribable way that only those who have experienced it can understand but cannot explain.

War affects us in many different ways. Most of us grow another skin to cover the scarred one below. Afraid to express what we feel, like lava it wells up like a volcano til one day, somewhere it erupts, and bursts through the fragile protection to effect all those around us; all those we love. And we don’t really know why; and still we keep private those moments we cannot share; for we are ashamed of being less than the man we were once proud of being. Some of us become TPI’s. And as is the extraordinary nature of man, there are some who envy us.

©Colin F. Jones
‘Cobbers Journal’
July 2000