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                                                    (This was written on the 24th June 2010.)

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."

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

24 responses »

  1. Lest we forget, GOF. Ben's Mum and Dad are indeed fortunate to have a friend such as yourself to help them through this difficult time.

  2. I am just shaking my head right now, GOF. Great tribute to this young man, and how sad. I have a few family who served, but the person who stands out in my mind was a young man in our undergrad Conservation class who was on a break from his time in Iraq and taking classes.
    We had some heated debates, but this young man always added perspective, wisdom beyond his years. His contributions were down to earth and so thoughtful. He left the class towards the end of the semester to return to Iraq. I often wonder what happened to him, and I can't help but feel that if he's not okay, the world lost someone who is sorely needed in these modern times.
    Just like Ben. I think these folks are heroes for serving but also for showing us the kind of men we need in our society. Hard to believe it when they leave this earth. I have so much respect for these people, may you and the families involved find solace. Bless.

  3. Argh, I couldn't find the words to comment on this. I'm sorry for everyone's loss.

  4. Sorry for the loss, and for your friends loss.

  5. How very, very sad. May he rest in peace.

  6. Wow, GOF. This is such a tragedy.It's moments like this that really make me question how casually we risk the lives of our kids.Perhaps if our political leaders had the lives of their own kids sitting in the balance we would be going to less of these optional events and be thinking harder about what we are trying to achieve.When the old Diggers came home and told us war is a waste of time I thought we might get a little smarter and be more selective. Such is not the case.Sadly we sign on every bloody time even though the arguments are less compelling than in times gone by.

  7. GOF, what a lovely tribute you have written about Ben and his family. You brought me to tears. Ben was a handsome young man and I am saddened to hear of the tragedy of his death.

  8. My deepest respects to you and your friend's family on the loss of young Ben. A fine lad he was, too, and we are all the poorer for this tragedy.There's really nothing to be added except know that there are a lot of us who feel this.

  9. My heart cries for them…

  10. Thanks Snowy… is just so difficult to know how to provide meaningful assistance to friends suffering such personal grief.

  11. Thank you Emmi for your wonderful thoughtful contribution. It is greatly appreciated.I hope that one day you will be able to find out that your own young friend is OK.

  12. LOM, I am sorry this story was so confronting, but I really, really appreciate that you took the time to comment. I hope that I never have to write anything like this again in my life.

  13. Thank you for your thoughts GOM.

  14. Thanks Peter. The commandos in Afghanistan believe without exception that they are protecting Australia's future security. At this time I am not inclined to dispute that.We can only hope that our descendants will eventually see more civilised times when humans become capable of resolving disputes without the use of force.Unfortunately that time is not yet with us.

  15. Thank you Freedom for your sensitive and compassionate comment. It means a lot to me, and Ben's family.The poem was read at the memorial service with extraordinary courage and strength by Ben's mother and sister.

  16. Thank you Ninja for your very thoughtful comment.We now re-live this sadness too often with each successive returning Afghanistan casualty.

  17. My heart cries for them… Yes…we all feel that way. Thank you FD.

  18. What a tragic loss, for the family and friends and also for the world, which has lost another decent, good and brave young man. It never ceases to enrage me how easily our politicians send these young men into war zones and battles without a second thought, as though they were just numbers and not real people with real lives and real families. Then when they die those in power treat them as a statistic and nothing more. We are always being told by our politicians that we should be supporting our troops in Afghanistan and they never seem to have quite grasped the notion that you can support the actual personnel out there without supporting the war itself.
    I hope Ben's parents are coping, it's so hard to know what to say and do but all you really can do is be there for them when they need you. Hopefully with each day that passes the hurt will become a little bit less until eventually it's manageable.

  19. When I was in the RAAF I believed in the Domino Theory but in later years I realised that theory was fuelled by a total lack of understanding of the Vietnamese and Chinese.Experts in the field, and I'm talking about advisors to the US Government and even the General Commanding their Afghanistan forces, understand they are facing a Civil (inappropiate word) War and a corrupt government. If there is an end in sight I can't see how especially when some of their trainees are actually the "bad guys". Reading the reports from the British troops who have seen action, they are unconvinced there is any chance of a solution and they don't trust the guys they are training.That's why I am so pi**ed off about our kids being there and I hate the thought of how many more Ben's we might see especially now the Dutch have left.When the pain of your loss eases you might like to read Spoken from the Front by Andy Mcnab. The stories of heroism and the overall thoughts of the "training" from the kids bravely giving their all give pause for thought.

  20. I hope Ben's parents are coping, it's so hard to know what to say and do but all you really can do is be there for them when they need you.We are all so poorly prepared to help those we care about in times like this, and I expect you are right…..that all we can really do is to make it known that we are there to support them in any way.Re your comment about politicians… this case there was an exception to the rule. Our Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Minister for Defence all made the effort to attend the memorial service, and I am sure that they could not help but be enormously moved by the emotion of the event, and hopefully take this into account when making future political decisions.Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments Vicola.

  21. Thanks Peter…..I really appreciate your thoughts because I know you have studied the topic much more closely than I.I just live in hope that one day humans might evolve into a more caring and compassionate species so that none of this will be necessary.Probably nothing more than a dreamer's fantasy, but one has to live with a positive vision for the future of humanity.

  22. Well worth striving for.I appreciate the measure of your stress. The delay in posting shows just how hard it has been for you to write this entry and I'm grateful for it as will Ben's family be.


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