My first job back in Australia after 4 years abroad was as an interviewer for the Australians At War Film Archive. It was a dream job, I packed up a station wagon every morning for 6 months and travelled around Australia interviewing veterans of the Australian Defense Forces.
Some served in every campaign across the Pacific and Europe during World War 2, did a tour of Korea, or served in Vietnam. They were every day men and women who answered a call to serve this country.
A colleague and I would lob in to their lounge room at 8am, haul up a massive green screen, then lights, camera and interview. Sometimes we would be there til 6:30 at night, having chewed through 12 tapes. One day we would be with a Rat of Tobruk, the next in Long Tan; by the end of a working week we would have lived from World War 2 to today.
What we created was an archive of ANZAC stories. The good, the bad, the ugly, yet always the truth.
One of my favourite interviews was with an infantryman who spent ANZAC day on the Kakoda Track. He recalls, after surviving days of fighting and the loss of men, returning to base camp to a loud cheer from the soldiers who had just landed.
With tears he confesses he never felt like a hero that day. He had lost his innocence in the onslaught of combat.
After completing this job I attended my first ANZAC Day March. I recognized faces and shed tears for their stories. This was their day to celebrate, commiserate, or just catch up with their ‘mates’.
However for me it then became the day I remember how many Australians lost their innocence.