World War II veteran Keith sits on the beach in the TV ad and reflects on the death of his mate Jack. I think of my late grandfather, but Keith’s stubby and the empty chair beside him don’t remind me of Bill’s war deeds.
I’m proud of Bill, who fought in the Middle East and Crete. He arrived back in Australia with a wounded knee and arm, but played and umpired 500 games of football. He should never have been at war — he signed up at 16 — but he’s one of the many we remember every Anzac Day.
But I won’t “raise a glass” to him to raise money for Legacy, as the current Carlton and United Breweries campaign encourages me to do.
As well as physical wounds, my grandfather received deep psychological damage. Post-traumatic stress disorder was unknown in the ’40s, and there were no counselling services. So he did what many of his mates did: numbed the pain with grog.
Bill drank solidly for 52 years and his liver, kidneys and spleen were shot when he died. But the alcohol didn’t just affect his body: he was a violent alcoholic who created a warzone. He physically and psychologically abused his wife and kids, and the effects continue: his four children have had psychological problems; two of his sons have been alcoholics (with four marriages between them) and one of their daughters suicided.
Legacy, a voluntary organisation that has assisted my grandmother in the years since Bill’s death, cares for thousands of widows and dependents. The $1 million CUB aims to raise won’t go astray. But by linking arms with burgeoning Anzac Day, you could say CUB is on a winner.
Keith’s trembling voice as he talks about his mate reminds me of my grandfather’s on the rare occasions he allowed the terrified boy inside himself to remember the war. I want to raise a glass to Keith, Bill and all the men and women like them. But respect for those who have lived through domestic warzones means I won’t.