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Friday
May052006

A Soldier's Farewell

Mike Carlton writes in The Sydney Morning Herald of the funeral of the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq - "THE QUEEN and the Household Cavalry were probably unavailable at short notice, but the Government loaded the funeral of Private Jake Kovco with all the martial pomp and circumstance it could muster.

There was a gleaming gun carriage for the coffin, an army band in scarlet, a sombre Prime Minister and a damp-eyed Defence Minister, a platoon of Australian Defence Force top brass and a guard of honour, a rifle volley over the grave and, at the climax, an RAAF fly-past.

They used to call this a field-marshal's funeral, hallowed grandeur fit for a warrior commander with a roll of victories on his escutcheon, or for a winner of the Victoria Cross killed in action. It was grossly over the top for a junior soldier shot, not in combat, but accidentally in barracks by a gun that had been left loaded against the rules.

We are accustomed to John Howard's now offensive obsession with wrapping himself in cammo and invoking the Anzac legend to his political advantage at every opportunity. Plainly, the elaborate ceremonial for Private Kovco was a media stunt by a Prime Minister desperate to duck the public relations disaster of the bungled return of the body and anxious to shore up waning public support for the Iraq war.

Veterans have told me they were dismayed by this excess. Howard should know that it demeaned the sacrifice of thousands of more deserving Australian service dead - including prisoners of war of the Japanese - who were never farewelled in such clouds of glory.

I mean no disrespect to Jacob Kovco. But what military honours are now left to bestow if a digger dies in action in Iraq?

GOVERNMENTS have always exploited their soldiers. Certainly that was the case in the Vietnam War, which the Menzies lot joined for the same reasons that Howard took us to Iraq: to brown-nose the Americans."

Hear, Hear. When my Father, who was a POW of the Japanese for three and a half years in Changi/Sandakan/Kuching, died two years ago my Mother got a letter of condolence from The Department of Veterans Affairs. Not a word from the P.M. or his Department. No guard of honour, rifle volley over the grave or RAAF fly-past. Not that the old man would have wanted it.

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Reader Comments (2)

Hey Mal, hadn't got around to reading the Carlton piece (no need now!) But I've been left feeling very uncomfortable about the whole sorry episode. I know the chaplain of 3RAR, he's a good bloke, but there wasn't a word about his address, not that that matters a jot. He actually was a serving digger before going to Moore College, so it would have been an interesting service... My brother was in 3RAR, straight out of Duntroon, and of course, now he's in the Special Forces. He doesn't know what went on either... But the whole situation is quite, well, degrading to a certain extent. As you say - why the hoopla over an unfortuante accident? Do you know how many accidental casualties there are in the Armed Forces every year? Do they get the whole shebang, or just a discreet farewell ceremony and ensuing fight for compensation...? And what really made me sick was the headline "SAS missed on out a bloody good soldier" Now I know what makes an SAS soldier, and he didn't sound like it...
Damn! so so cranky on a beautiful autumn morning...
May 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteractonb
Shameless, tacky, tawdry, exploitative, nauseating...
I honestly believe people who can still think for themselves are not fooled by any of this circusry. The Kovco carnival is just symptomatic of the way life is now 'sold' to the wad of mediocrity out there. Ideas are not enough anymore; the masses need pretty pictures rather than words to understand what they're experiencing, a fireworks display rather than a minute's silent reflection, maybe a soundtrack to make the ordeal more palatable. And I'll bet 80% of all Australians still couldn't point Iraq out on a map.
I'm limp at the prospect of it all...
May 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfingers

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