As my daughter and I were waiting to board our Adelaide-Brisbane flight on Sunday, I went to order a coffee.
Next to me in the queue was a bloke about my age wearing a Vietnam Veteran's Association of Australia T-shirt. We got to talking over the coffee.
He was in a Sigs unit, at the same time I was in country, and spent pretty much all of his time in the Dat.
He showed me his TPI Gold Card, and explained that he'd been injured in an accident during his tour, and his back was shot.
We were heading for different aircraft, so we wished each other well and I boarded the Embraer 190 that was taking us to Brisbane.
The flight lasted about two hours, so I had time to ponder two things.
I've met heaps of Vietnam veterans over the years, and anecdotally, the majority seem to be TPI. Again, anecdotally, there doesn't seem to be a connection between this and the corps in which they served. Naively, perhaps, I'd always assumed that ex-infantry people would be more likely to be incapacitated by their service. I'd like to see some statistics on this.
I'm also reminded that I've been lucky. Most of the blokes surviving from my old rifle section are also TPI, but I'm still able to earn a living.
Must be my parents' sturdy genes…..
The other thing that I found interesting was that I was a passenger in an aircraft manufactured by a Brazilian firm. Given the economic and geographical similarities between Brazil and Australia, I wondered why we don't have a viable aero industry.
They're a comfortable aircraft, although lacking many of the in-flight entertainment fripperies you find on a Boeing. There is actually more leg room, despite the narrower fuselage, as you sit two plus two.
It was good to get home, although I had to face up to Roma-Quilpie-Thargomindah- St George on Tuesday. This meant that in the last two weeks I'd driven 4000kms and flown 1600.