Gerry Mapston

Gerry MapstoneGerry is an Australian Vietnam Veteran who served as a Helicopter Crewman in Vietnam with No. 9 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force. He is a Volunteer Pension Officer and Advocate with the Vietnam Veterans Federation, ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Branch.

Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia (ACT Branch)

THE VIETNAM VETERAN

I once was a young man with plenty of zeal
But I went to a war which was so unreal
Life was so simple before I went there
But it changed forever my need to care

Now that I am older and have time to reflect
On what caused my problems and defects
I look back on life and wonder where
All my old friends and remember what we shared

We sweated behind our guns and flew through the shit
Crawled in the mud and some of us got hit
We suffered the battles and the constant nagging fear
And then came home to the hate and the jeers

The Yanks sprayed Agent Orange, Purple and Blue
To deny the Viet Cong a place to retreat to
We now know what it does to our lungs and our skin
And to the digestive system and to our kin

The mix of this poison spoiled the water and the food
Of those whom we strived to assist in this bitter feud
It has scarred their children as well as ours
And their country is spoiled and the soil is soured

We were there for our mates and did not let them down
Unlike the bloody Posties, Students, and Wharfies who frown
Who say we should not have been there and it was not our fight
We did our duty and supported our mates as was our plight

We were reminded of the American Civil War
Australians fighting each other at home about a war
Our country divided as never before
By events somewhere else and what was it for?

Life was a constant collection of weapons and gear
We dreaded the patrols and the mines to clear
Navy EMU’s worked with the Yanks and had a rough time
Some RAAFies flew on helicopters with old number nine

We saw on television what was supposed to be done
But our version and theirs was not the same one
It was go and do your duty and then have a rest
Your replacement will be along in a year to pass his test

Life was all Figmos, rocket attacks and monsoonal rain
We were always there on edge and there we remain
On alert for the rest of our lives day and night
Jump at a noise and be ready to fight

When we returned home it was late at night
This was to make sure that we were out of sight
Many were against us and we felt so confused
No one understood what it was like to be refused

We had seen the captured parcels of goodies and such
From the Aussie universities or from such and such
These people who aided our enemy and felt good
Should have seen their betrayal from where we stood

The Welcome Home Parade that took years to win
Was late in its coming and our ranks were thin
It did some good to know that we had come home
If only it was twenty years earlier for some we had known

Life has been good and not all has been lost
But the changes it bought are a human cost
We have seen all the stress and the various cancers
That decimated our ranks and reduced our chances

There were two types of veterans who came back
Those who went bush and lived on the track
Those who got on with life for a while
And in later years fell off the pile

We have suffered from the actions of Politicians
Who have refused to listen about our suspicions
They mess up the figures and promise the best
But our needs and our pensions are subject to tests

We have seen our kids and our mates fall victim to the system
Which rolls on and hopes that we will end in attrition
They hope each group will die out and make less fuss as we go
But we are more careful now and stem the flow

We care for each other, our families, and friends
Not for those who won’t listen and make amends
We have become sceptical and suspicious of them
As they have rejected our calls and will not bend

They have different groups that they represent
We have our problems and they will not relent
If they give in then it is always at a cost
But they dare not help those who are lost

No one wants to listen to stories and recall
Things that are all we have to remember at all
So we write our thought down and keep on going
Without them understanding or really knowing

War is so lacklustre and a waste of time
But we are conditioned to stand there in line
To protect those ideals that we are taught
Should be our mission in short

We come now to life’s later stages and have seen
What we have done in the name of the Queen
They knock at our door and want us to change
All of those things that we fought to arrange

The battle goes on but the enemy has changed
He now wears a suit and keeps the change
They take from Peter to pay Paul
And worry about their electorate and not the long haul

They only acknowledge when the cameras roll
And they won’t be reminded of the human toll
They want our just causes but not our pain
They are waiting until we go down the drain

The pollies wait for their super, their free travel and more
They retire on big pensions that we have to fight for
Our pensions are less than half of the average national wage
For disabilities that we now suffer and have for an age

Will they take away some of the benefits but not their own
We should remind them that we are here still the unknowns
We have loud voices and employ tactics to ensure
That the bastards give us the benefits that we fought for

We dread the future, are our grandkids to be affected
By some chemical that left us infected
We never sought understanding because there was none
Even by the old diggers who said their war was won

We should take over the clubs in our twilight years
And fight for the right s of the new volunteers
Who have serve in Somalia, Rwanda, and East Timor
To Afghanistan, Iraq and heaven knows more

Life’s lesson to us is to ensure that all those who came after
Will be shown the respect and understanding like a father
We will help them to handle the pain and confusion
That coming home after their war won’t leave them in seclusion

There will always be veterans and we should treat them as our friends
For they are the ones that go away to defend
The lifestyle that we value and the freedom that we enjoy
Look after them and respect them as you would your own boy