Can You Hear The Fat Lady?

There is an old saying that is probably not PC enough for today but it runs along the lines that ‘the opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings’. The same is true for life and life threatening situations. It ‘ain’t over ’til it’s over’! A man drove himself to hospital the other night after receiving several stab wounds. No doubt he made the conscious decision he wasn’t going to die. He wasn’t giving in.

Very often that is all it takes, that conscious decision to fight, to survive. Not to just roll over and die. Sadly, in Afghanistan we lost our 17th Digger last night. Another IED (Improvised Explosive Device) or ‘roadside bomb’. As a former Engineer I was trained to find and neutralize IEDs and even in training the tension was considerable. One can only imagine what our young men and women face every day serving their country in that long running war. And they are young.

This last casualty was just 23. We often disparage the younger generation, it was ever so when I was his age and it has ever been so going back to the days of the Ancient Greeks. The reality though is that these are our best, the cream of their generation and they are always the ones to pay the price, as their great grandfathers did in World War 1, their grandfathers in World War 2 and Korea, Malaya and their fathers in Borneo, Vietnam and the Cold War. I include the Cold War because while casualties were mainly in training accidents, we did lose service members who will never be remembered by the issue of a medal, but they are with us all the same.

These soldiers are a different generation with their iPods and email and You Tube helmet cams but their mission is no less lethal, nor is their professionalism any the more wanting. Casualties are a fact of war. We should be grateful we have lost so few for the large amount of good they have done for the people of Afghanistan and not wring our hands when another falls, no matter how deeply we feel their loss.

You see the job’s not done and those soldiers would be the first to demand they be left to finish it. They are not losing. They are positive, upbeat and their morale is high. They are professional soldiers and they are aware of the risks, they accept the possible consequences, they only ask to be left to get on with the job and not be tried by media for every squeeze of the trigger.

They have esprit de corps, instilled during the training process as they are molded into a fighting force that looks after each other. They know the love of men at arms for one another, a bond that is hard to replicate outside the military and even harder for civilians to understand if they have never had the privilege of serving with such men. They aren’t afraid of the Taliban, they’ve got the means to hurt the enemy, they just need the political and public will to let them get on with the job. They’ll do the rest. They have the kit, the training and the will to win. And that is what it is all about, either in Afghanistan or Australia, the will to win. Never give up, never give in. Not until the fat lady sings and we pay the fat lady, not them.

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