To understand my connection to Ben, you firstly need to know that his Dad, Gordon, is my closest male friend, confidante, an inspiration in life, and the only remaining constant connection to my school days 47 years ago.
Ben was born in 1983, and we watched him and his siblings grow up in a family which nurtured old-fashioned values like courtesy, consideration, and respect for others.
Ben was Inga's contemporary, and the two of them as little children would play-act scenarios of their favourite television cartoon adventure characters.
Indeed, Ben went on to become a crocodile handler and adventurer in real life.
He "flew" my little computer flight simulator, then with a singular determination qualified as a fully fledged private helicopter pilot.
For the last 6 years he was a member of the elite SAS commando division of the Australian armed forces where he proudly served both at home and abroad, most recently in Afghanistan.
Last Friday was Ben's 27th birthday.
This week he will be coming home to his family from Afghanistan.
Ben was one of three young Australians killed in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan on Monday during joint military operations with American forces.
In this time of almost indescribable grief, an entire little country village and community is attempting to come to terms with it's loss and trying to ease the pain of bereavement for a family who has lost their son and hero.
Ben was blessed with the qualities of courage and bravery, but I will remember him as simply being one of the most respectful young men I have ever known.
Ben's entire remaining family are also now heroes to me as they respond to the intrusive media attention with unprecedented dignity and courtesy which has always been their trademark.
Suddenly any debate and philosophical discussion I engage in about the rights and wrongs of war from the comfort of my home in my democratic free country can take a back seat. I need to think more about the price we paid to make Australia the country which it now is and to keep it remaining thus.
But most importantly, even though I feel ill-equipped, I have a best mate who needs my support right now, and for a long time into the future.
(30 August 2010)
In Ben's memory I post the following poem which was read by his Mum and little sister at the memorial service held on the banks of Lake Tinaroo. It should give us all something to think about.
The Dash by Linda Ellis
I read of a reverend who stood to speak
at the funeral of his friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning—to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and he spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth…..
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
the cars….the house…..the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard…..
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
You could be at "dash mid-range".
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile…..
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read
with your life's actions to rehash….
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash?
Ben Chuck (1983 – 2010)
"When you have gone so far,
that you can't manage another step,
then you have gone just half the distance
that you are capable of."