Anthony W. Pahl


There is something “compelling” about war isn’t there? I’m not certain if it’s an “adrenalin junkie” type of mentality or if it’s a real calling – I think for some it is one, for others, the other, and for yet others, a combination of both.

I came home (to Murray Bridge in South Australia) for 4 days in February 1970 from Vietnam for R&R (Rest and Recreation) and was informed that because my aircraft was delayed leaving Saigon, I could extend my R&R for a further 4 days. That was the earliest they could get me a return flight back to the war because of the number of personnel, mainly American, who were travelling to and from Australia for their R&R. I thought about it and without discussing it at all with Maria, returned to Vietnam on my originally scheduled aircraft.

For years afterwards I reconciled this decision in my mind as my duty to myself and friend, and that I was needed in my unit so somebody else wouldn’t have to do my job. But that gradually changed until I no longer believed that I was given a choice and I started to blame the “system” for cutting short my R&R and forcing me to “go back” when I didn’t want to. It’s only in the last 5 years or so that I’ve acknowledged the truth to myself, but I still haven’t reached the point where I have enough courage to tell the truth to Maria.

Oh what a year… a year that has affected and directed more than 35 years of my 54 year life! Is it any wonder that I’ve borrowed the term, “the old young men” from my friend and fellow poet, Colin Jones?