The front and back page of the paper today tells all about Andrew Johns and the will he, won?t he story about his apparent switch to Union. The hourly news updates flash his face across the screen and tell that today is the day he will choose. A Current Affair even had an ?exclusive? interview regarding the pressures that he faces. It?s nothing new; it just highlights the everyday Aussie?s fascination with sport. It?s a fascination that I share as well, however, today that fascination saddens me. Today is a day where articles about sporting prowess and contract negotiations should be the last thing we hear.
Simply because an old man died yesterday.
?So what?? I hear you say, ?An old man usually dies every day?. While that statement is quite possibly true, this old gentleman was different. This gentleman was special and his passing should have been front-page news and not a footnote on the third page, for he helped to give us the lifestyle in which we can idolise our sporting stars today. These men allowed us the freedom to pursue our childhood dreams.
He was a hero and among the few remaining of which was once so many. He would probably be embarrassed about being called a hero, as much as his mates would feel the same. But it doesn?t change the fact that he was. His death reduces the number of these heroes to just five. The man in question was Ted Smout, Australia?s oldest surviving World War I veteran. He was 106 years old and died on the day of his wedding anniversary.
He was only 17 when he joined the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1915. ?My friends all enlisted, it was the thing to do? Mr. Smout said in one of his final interviews. He served in Belgium and on the Somme where so many Australians died. In 1998, he was among four Australian veteran?s upon whom were bestowed the highest military distinction in France, the Legion of Honour.
He didn?t consider himself extraordinary. He lists the greatest and most interesting moment in his life as quite simply marrying his wife. At age 100 he was still out selling Legacy badges and making sure the widows and their families were well looked after.
Australia creates many ?heroes? and mostly because of sporting prowess and sometimes the ones we should be lauding are pushed off the front page. Some things are more important than Olympic glory and contract negotiations and the score of a game. These men fought for Australia and had friends die. Andrew Johns, as talented a sportsman as he is, put on the green and gold and chased a football round a field.
I love football and I have my favourite players. I do however take more pride in knowing and learning about what these men did as opposed to how much money an overpaid sports star is going to earn and how much pressure the decision he is trying to make has caused. Andrew Johns has not put his life on the line and he did not suffer from shell shock for most of his life ? real pressure is clearly not something Johns knows a hell of a lot about.
Mr. Smout and his five remaining friends Marcel Caux, Gilbert Bennion, John Ross, Evan Allen and Peter Casserly and those that have passed on before them are the ones that should be sitting on the front and back pages of newspapers, especially when they have passed on. Sure it was a long time ago but these now little old men are among those who gave our country its identity and chose to give of themselves so today?s sports stars could enjoy being heroes. Lest we forget.
Maybe a certain League superstar could learn a thing or two from these men about giving.
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