Can we all be heroes?

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Letters – Opinion – theage.com.au

Stop upsetting a hero’s wife and kids

IN RESPONSE to comments made by Karla McKinlay (Letters, 3/5) about Private Jacob Kovco, I would like to say: Back off and wait for the outcome of the investigation into his death. People like you are distressing his widow Shelly and the two kids. Jake is a hero: he died doing a job for his country. Also, he is a hero because Tyrie, his son, said so. I say so and so do all his mates in 3 RAR. If anyone wishes to dispute it, I’m sure his mates would discuss it with them. So would I.

When this is over, I hope that all the knockers will apologise. If you really want to do something, help the kids by making a donation and lobbying the politicians so this does not happen again and our soldiers are treated with dignity when they die. Why do I care? Well, I am Shelly’s father, and am proud of her and Jake — because he is a hero.
David Small, Sale

Y’know, the federal government just keeps making this case worse. If they hadn’t lied in the first instance about what had happened and then if they hadn’t fucked up the transport of the body back to Australia, this would all be fading quickly in the memory of Australians. But because they did both those things, answers are now sought and the minister for defence states that the official enquiry will take six months to complete. That’s six months for speculation and theories of what actually happened to fester. Surely, the minister hopes that everyone will have forgotten by that time and they’ll be able to dump the findings on a busy Friday coming up to the AFL grand final or something.

What has been ascertained is that there are strict procedures for the removal of ordinance from weapons before military personnel enter barracks that would prevent a loaded weapon casually laying around, waiting to be knocked and go off. Something else of note is that if a member of the military commits suicide, the  widow is not eligible for payment of a pension.

So if the case is that Jake Kovco committed suicide, this is bad press for the govt, given that it’s an indication that our military personnel are in such a bad state that they are driven to suicide by Howard’s decision to lead this country into a spurious war. And, if the widow and young child are left without any financial support from the govt because of standing  regulations, Howard is seen as heartless in the face of a tragic situation. Maybe that’s what they figure is going to be the result of the enquiry and so they’re trying to pre-empt the discontent about the situation later by giving the full military funeral this week.

But back to David Small’s letter:
Sure, Jake Kovco is a hero because, these days, the word really doesn’t have any value. Howard tells us that Don Bradman was a hero – no he wasn’t. He had a particular talent for aiming a bit of wood at a bit of cork wrapped in leather and running quickly in 22 yard bursts. He calls the casualties of the Bali bombing heroes. No they weren’t, they were victims. Possibly victims who wouldn’t have been attacked if this country hadn’t been led into an illegal military action by John Howard. I could go on but I shan’t.

Jake Kovco wasn’t a hero. Even if he didn’t die at his own hand. He chose to play the percentages on joining the army – he may have seen it as a good chance that he wouldn’t be sent to Iraq. He may have expected there was a good chance he wouldn’t see any real action. He may have expected there was a good chance he wouldn’t be injured or killed – and, unfortunately for him, landed on the wrong side of the percentages. But that’s the gamble you take when you sign up. For years, the Australian army wasn’t involved in any serious conflicts and being a career soldier was a pretty good wicket.

Sure, David is going to be emotional at this point. He’s been closely involved with the man they just buried. He can say anything he wants about Jake to try to quell the pain. But I’m not sure that it’s constructive for anyone to be making veiled threats. “If
anyone wishes to dispute it, I’m sure his mates would discuss it
with them. So would I.”, seems to have the same tone to it as, “I’ll see you behind the shelter shed after school with my burly gang of mates… You’re SO dead.”

  • May 5, 2006