The Lamb who was slaughtered
Every few years, this happens. Anzac Day falls on a Sunday. And I have a task that I sometimes think is pretty well beyond me—that task is to say a word about Jesus Christ and his resurrection life, whilst remembering those who have died in our nation’s wars.
Let me confess. I turned twenty in 1973; some of you will immediately realise what this means. The young men of my generation were being chosen by ballot to be conscripted into the Armed Forces and fight in an unpopular war in Vietnam.
I have rarely been so relieved than when Gough Whitlam came to power on 2 December 1972 and abolished conscription the very next day.
Those who returned from Vietnam often returned to find people didn’t want to know. They were not honoured for being part of our nation’s wars. There may have been all sorts of reasons, including massive popular opposition to sending troops to Vietnam. Many returning soldiers developed post-traumatic stress disorders as a result of the treatment they received on returning to Australia. They were let down by our society.
During the week, I read of a man none of us will have heard of. A man called Harry Hogan. His story is in Eureka St, an online magazine produced by a members of a Jesuit community—in fact, I stay with this community when I’m in Melbourne. Read it! But for now, listen to Harry Hogan’s story:
Harry was 18, a knockabout bush larrikin ready to give just about anything a try. He joined the Second Machine Gun Battalion on 10 February 1915, trained for four months…and set foot on the beach at Gallipoli on 16 August, a few days after the start of the doomed August offensive that was the Allies’ last throw of the dice before their retreat from the peninsula.
For the next four months Harry Hogan, like so many of his fellow soldiers, had an undistinguished, brutalising time, memories of which would stay with him forever. If, in his happy-go-lucky, thoughtless way, he had imagined performing daring, perhaps dramatic deeds, it took no time at all for such notions to founder amid the chaos, the blood, the wounds, the deaths.
Never shirking but always scared stiff, Harry staggered through the months until serious head wounds were added to his more or less constant and worsening state of shock, and he was taken to hospital in Alexandria on 23 December…
Harry recovered after treatment but, still not 19 years of age, he had seen gruesome sights, experienced indescribable horrors and confronted his own crippling fears. He was scarred beyond any treatment that the hospital in Alexandria could give him or even knew about. And this was only the beginning.