Story 8 - Thoughts on East Timor

By Les Crutchfield

Todd Fitzgerald (Ex 104) with some kids in East Timor 1999

What a difference in attitude there is today!    If only we had felt the support of a nation all those years ago!    Of course I speak of the differences between East Timor and Vietnam.    This evening I sat and watched a concert held in Dili, the burned out capitol of East Timor, for the servicemen and women of all countries represented in the INTERFET Force.   They have the conveniences of modern day telecommunications at their call and have facilities only dreamed of by past generations.   TV news, programmes and FM radio broadcasts are beamed directly into East Timor from Australian commercial sources so they are kept in touch with home.   They can phone home - we could send a coded telegram left over from WWII, that never seemed to have the right words to say. 

The concert, held at a sports stadium in the afternoon heat of a land not far from our shores, where a peace and a feeling of independence has come at last to a people our government, and governments of the free world have shunned for so long.    For me, it was an uplifting experience to watch the children of this, the newest free nation on earth, perched on the shoulders of the troops who, hopefully will remain until this tiny shattered country regains its dignity.   Intermingled in the crowd of camouflaged uniforms were the children with huge smiles on their faces, most cannot speak English but they seem to understand that these uniforms are there for their protection and to ensure their future.    They clapped, waved and sang with the music and the troops, breathing in the atmosphere of the crowd. 

The faces of the young servicemen and women, drenched, but enjoying a little relaxation in a tropical monsoonal downpour, not budging an inch for fear of missing something or someone from the entertainment world that they have all grown up with, and savouring every drop of the music and the rain, for water is still a precious commodity in Dili.   Some holding signs for the cameras, sending messages back to loved ones at home - "Hi so and so, Mum loves you" and others to the folks in Bendigo and around the country.    I forget that some of the women in todays service are married with children and they are the ones far from their children and loved ones this time.   This is a new experience, women serving alongside men overseas!

Oh how lucky they are!   They have been told by so many, not just the politicians, who's attitudes may change with the wind, that they serve a greatful nation.   They will not be shunned when they return home, as others were before them.   Perhaps having the political will to go the distance this time and knowing that they perform a service backed fully by their countrymen will not make it rain on their parade when they return to our shores - I sincerly hope so!  

Les Crutchfield
December 1999

Footnote:  Les served in Vietnam with 104 Sig Sqn, as the Chief Clerk and now lives with his family in Brisbane. 

Stop Press:  The photo with this article is of Todd Fitzgerald who served with 104 Sig Sqn May 1987 to Dec 1990 as a Radio Operator.   When this article was added to the web site the photo was just selected from Army PR Photos.   What a coincident - Little did we realised that it was one of our own.  The photo was taken by Army PR who accompanied Todd into a village in the hills overlooking Dili late 1999.   Todd is is still serving and is a WO2 Group Manager Communications (in the old days a SCC). 

Denis Hare
Early 2000

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