Old soldiers and why we remember them

At 18, by then a cub reporter, I joined the local RSA, mainly for the ridiculously cheap beer, even though the drinking age was 20. I was proud to slip my unlaminated membership card - number 399 (membership numbers are now in the 3000s) – inside my wallet. Beer poured to the brink of the stippled pint glass, no hint of foamy head, the slow trawl to the tables tidal, perilous.

The old boys would be there. Parked at round tables, backs to walls. Some liked to drink rum and milk, a strange tradition picked up in the early Anzac Days when nobody cared but them. They kept low-talk to themselves, safe in their lifelong familial ties that only war or extreme circumstances can provide. But they liked to talk to us youngsters. Maybe because we sat and listened? Maybe we were a mirror to back when they were our age? Young, dumb, bulletproof.