I Was Only 19 – A favourite song of mine

I was Only 19 (A walk in the Light Green)

I_Was_Only_NineteenHere is a classic Australian song originally performed by Redgum, but this version of the lyrics are from a version by The Herd.

I love this song and whenever I hear either version it speaks to me in ways that I can’t explain.  I am proud that I am the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, but the way these men were treated and ignored when they came back by both the United States and Australia was disgusting and even today, the horror that our newest ‘veterans’ suffer from are not  treated with the compassion, understanding and treatment that the people who fought on behalf of our countries should be entitled to!

I was only Nineteen (A walk in the Light Green) – The Lyrics (The Herd Version)

Mum, Dad and Denny
were some amongst many
who came to watch the passing out parade at Puckapunyal
Seemed every man and his mongrel
came watched cadets stumble
on the long march to the Viet jungle.
“Oh Christ”, I mumbled as I drew that card
and my mates came to slap me on the back with due regard
We were the sixth battalion, yet next to tour
we did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left, rest assured

Seemed half of Townsville turned out to see us leave
they lined the footpaths as we marched to the quay
And the papers wrote it up like you wouldn’t believe
but we were only looking to the future for a fast reprieve
And there’s all of us looking young
strong and clean rockin’ slouch hats
slung SLRs and greens

God help me, I was only nineteen

From Vung Tau the black helicopters
the chinhook pilots seemed relieved at Nui Dat when he dropped us
Seems like months running on and off landing pads
letters to Dad
it’s like, man, he’s sad
But he can’t see the tents that we call home
cans of VB, pin-ups of chicks off TV
The heat, the mosquitoes, and the noise suprising
like the first time you see an agent orange horizon

So please can you tell me doctor why I can’t get to sleep
the scar’s left in me?
Night time’s just a jungle
dark and a barking M16 that keeps saying
“rest in peace”
And what’s this rash that comes and goes
Don’t suppose you can tell me what that means?

God help me, I was only nineteen

Sent off on a four-week long operation
where every single step could be your last one
On two legs were sorta living hell
falling with the shells, war within yourself
But you couldn’t let your mates down
’til they had you dusted off
so you closed your eyes and thought of something else

Someone yelled “contact!”
another bloke swore
we hooked in for hours then a god almighty roar
Then Frankie kicked a mine
the day that mankind kicked the moon

God help me, he was going home in June

And I can still see Frank with a can in his hand
thirty-six hour leave in the bar at the Grand
And I can still hear Frank
a screaming mess
of bleeding flesh
couldn’t retrieve his legs

You see the ANZAC legend
neglected to mention
mud
the fear
the blood
the tears
the tension
Dad’s recollection
beyond comprehension
didn’t seem quite real until we were sent in
Chaos and confusion
the fire and steel
hot shrapnel in my back
I didn’t even feel

God help me, I was only nineteen

So please can you tell me doctor
why I can’t get to sleep
I can’t hardly eat?
And the sound of the Channel Seven chopper still chills me to my feet
still fuels my grief?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes like the dreams
can you tell me what that means?

God help me, I was only nineteen

Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal
It was a long march from Cadets
The sixth battalion was the next to tour
It was me who drew the card
we did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left

And Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean.
And there’s me in my slouch hat with my SLR and greens.

God help me, I was only nineteen

So please can you tell me doctor
why I can’t get to sleep
I can’t hardly eat?
And the sound of the Channel Seven chopper still chills me to my feet
still fuels my grief?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes like the dreams
can you tell me what that means?

God help me, I was only nineteen.

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