Greater than any income I could derive or creative project realised is the gift of the outstanding people I have met through working in the 3D marketing field in trade shows and exhibitions.  I am so lucky that these people have also become embedded in my life as enduring friends and part of the Diva Council.  But today on ANZAC day I would like tell you my story of how the exhibition industry delivered me one the best gifts of wall, one of my best mates and Vietnam Vet, Kevin.

My mate Kevin & I.  I am pretty sure that is his feather boa.

My mate Kevin & I. I am pretty sure that is his feather boa.

Many years ago when I was a newly minted designer, I was fortunate to find myself working on many installs with this bloke Kevin.  Even the early years of knowing him, it was a dream to work him. He was always calm, ready with a quick, witty one liner and had SO much knowledge and experience to draw on.  Being one of the few females in the industry, I did get my ego knocked about quite a bit from the put downs and the brush-offs.  Kevin never behaved like this; it was always with respect and taking the time to explain his methodology so I got a pretty awesome lesson in understanding how stands got built, from an actual builder.

Shuffle forward a couple of years and we were on site at the Murray One Visitor Centre in Khancoban and our friendship really galvanised.  There must be something in saving the Pickled Parrot restaurant from burning down (true!) and having a night with the Swedish gym team (kinda true) that really bond you with someone.  About this time, the fabulous Gary who was one of the fellas who gave me a start in this industry, mentioned in passing that Kevin was a Vietnam Vet.  Apparently he did not yap about it much but since the watershed of the 1987 “Coming Home Parade”, he was more relaxed in talking about his time both training and in country.  Still, whether he was more up for chatting about it or not regardless of my curiosity, it was a moot point.  You can hardly work with a bloke on site and while you are passing paint tins and scrambling to meet show opening “Hey Kev, what was Vietnam really like?”

I had always had a curiosity about those who had served in wars. I am one of those lucky ones where no one in my immediate family had served in any theatre of war and has not been affected by the loss of a loved one in foreign lands or have to cope with the return of a member of my circle from a war zone and fitting back into life.  My Mum, who binges on history had always taken my sister and I to war memorials, with our bookcases filled with war biographies and stories and the ANZAC day march on ABC was a mandatory watch each year. So while I knew about wars, I had heard no first hand accounts and experiences.  And that is where the curiosity lie for me.  What is it, within what had been fairly ordinary men and women that makes them rise beyond any measure of bravery and determination, to face crushing odds and even years of living amid squalor and blood, to see their mates die, to subsist on rations, to continue to fight day after day, to maintain dignity and a moral code when held in prison camps…what is it, that allows ordinary people to do the most extraordinary things even under the most hellish and fucked up situations?

I got my answer.  In 2006 I had relocated to Sydney and Kevin and his wife Rosemary were due in for the 3RAR reunion on ANZAC Day.  The buggar ended up being that Rosemary could not make it due to a virus but I carried on with the plan of watching Kevin march in the Sydney parade and then – god help me – join him and his mates from 3RAR for an afternoon knees up at a pub at The Rocks.  About 3 hours into the march, I caught sight of him.  My mate Kevin, who was my Tensing Norgay when I worked the motor show circuit, marching proudly with his mates in 3RAR company with a chest full of medals.  I can see it so clearly now, I am even tearing up remembering how proud I was of him and how it just shifted my whole perception of him.  I was no longer just aware of the help and service he had given me over the years of working together, I saw and understood the larger sacrifice he made for our country by fighting some crazy war. His own life, dreams and hopes had been put on hold or even dramatically altered while he fought in Vietnam.  And then afterwards, when there was no official acknowledgement of their service and few support services, Kevin just had to find his way back to some sort of “normal life”.  When placed in an extreme situation like a war, it calls forth the very best of the human spirit like bravery, resilience, hope and love in order to endure and make it through another day or even the next hour. I would like to think that we all have these qualities within us; it should not take a war to bring those qualities to the forefront.

So what ANZAC day means for me is the deep and abiding gratitude for the men and women who have served their countries and while I can argue and bitch about politics around going to war, my support and love to those and their families is unwavering to those who have actually been through it.  And I think that the term “hero” needs to be reclaimed from the sportsman who boots 6 goals in an AFL game, from someone who runs a marathon or donates a sizeable proportion of their income to charity.  While these efforts are commendable and admirable, the “hero” resides in the men and women who have served in war.

I think that this is the only choice I could make music wise to mark this day.

See you next week.