The Rhodesian remembrance service included an understated talk that is far too topical in the world today. It was more “Now we” than “When we”. It touched on topics like PTSD, Combat Stress (delayed or otherwise) & the importance of talking & reaching out. There might be more awareness around these issues today compared to the Bush War era, but I get mail from people all over the world who struggle but are unlikely to reach out. If you are ex-services & reading this, please checkout the Rhodesian Ex Combatant interviews & the section on PTSD & let me know if you have anything to add that might be useful to others? Many people could use a hand in this regard, & veterans are the only people who might help.
This poem by Alf Hutchison brings home the sombre pride whenever it’s recited at these gatherings.
THEY WERE ONLY BOYS
They were only boys,
boys, straight from school, with neither skills nor trade,
One day on the playground, the next day on parade.
Gangly, snotty nosed, still wet behind the ears.
Most of them still in their middle teenage years.
“You’re in the army now” the first words they heard,
The playground bully he was there, as too was the nerd.
A motley band of misfits, snatched from mother’s care.
What lay in store for them, sleeping blissfully unaware.
Unaware that the sun would rise turning their lives to Hell,
Sergeant ‘Satan’ would stand silhouetted in the door and yell.
Yell obscenities that most tenderfoot boys had never known,
Panic would reign supreme as his military seeds were sown.
They were only boys, but their beloved country was at war,
Receiving their call up papers from the postman at their door.
They lined up for their uniforms, webbing, boots and cammo,
Soon would come their rifles, and their seven six two ammo.
Training was intensive, but they endured it with feigned smile,
For the flag, the ‘Green and White’, they would go the extra mile.
Trained to jump from moving trucks; to survive out in the field.
Crack Parabats and Special forces, tough discipline would yield.
Unmistakably the best fighting forces the world had ever seen.
They were only boys… Rhodesian boys… with the fighting gene,
Black and White, no colour bar, they were comrades side by side,
To keep the common enemy at bay; and do it all with pride.
They were only boys, yet they fought like men possessed,
The adrenalin rush on ‘contacts’ a drug to them obsessed.
They were cut down in their youth, scythed before mature,
Like green wheat in winter fields so poignantly premature.
Those of us who have survived, look back upon the war,
Photos of those lads we view with pride and with awe.
Robbed forever of their youth, some of their very lives,
They were only boys…but their stoic heroism survives.
They are etched forever in our hearts, minds and souls,
Their names forever engraved on our Rhodesian scrolls,
“Hamba kahle”, brave soldiers prematurely gone to rest,
“Sala kahle”, by your legacies Rhodesians are truly blessed.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we shall always remember ‘Our Boys’
by Alf Hutchison
The service followed a festive weekend of camping & family fun. All age groups were catered for, & attractions included
Children’s Games Day
The lunar eclipse was a bit of a disappointment as it obscured by clouds, but nobody seemed to mind. Beautiful sunshine & wide open green spaces kept the children happy, while pet dogs kept their humans busy with long walks and battles over biltong.
The ZPSF do an amazing job with limited resources, & under challenging conditions. They have different campaigns running to raise funds for this volunteer driven outreach program. Please visit their site & donate what you can if you support their aims & work.
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