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Once We Were Soldiers

 

 

Australian infantryman's combat badge
Pick 'Em Up!

© Bob Cavill
C Company & Assault Pioneers
1st Tour

Author: Robert Cavill

No man who passed though the physical and psychological cauldron of experience that seared the psyche of the Combat Infantry in that place can remain unmoved ever-after by the threat of a falling dark or the slow silent promise of a morning light; for this above all, will take him back to a place where the distance between 'Stand-To' and the wet green folding curtain of night could be a lifetime.

In late summer cricket song veranda silences I close my eyes and I see them—long corridors of rubber trees perfectly spaced, arms uplifted standing 'right dressed' dripping their liquid white gold into the collection cups, and beyond to the blood-red earth beneath. And my memory calls me back to those tall proud soldiers of my youth, the slouch hat that could bring them to an average height of seven feet or better; the leather creak and barrack room clatter of their boots 'AB'.

And via some hard-wired long redundant connection, I hear the order 'right dress!'; reach out to measure the distance; eye's right over my shoulder, and there, as if it were yesterday
see the sun shine gold on the polished brass hat badges of 'The Regiment'.

In the intense silent stillness of Stand-To I hear them—see again the faces of those immaculate ranks; feel that pride I felt then as we stepped off and swung away to the sing song call of 'left right left',

I hear a muffled drum and the rhythmic check of boots 'AB' on the tarmac and a voice that barks 'pick 'em up!' comes drifting across all those lesser years between.

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