Digger admits war fear
ROY Marek knows how to tell a joke that will make you laugh and a yarn that will keep you enthralled.
But beneath the riveting stories lies a quiet seriousness
Mr Marek, 66, joined the army as a teenager in 1962.
“I think (the infantry) suited me,” he says.
“I was a simple country boy and I liked guns, I liked the bush and I was good at it. It all fell into place.”
Mr Marek's first overseas posting came in 1965, when he was sent to the Sarawak in Borneo to serve one year in the Indonesian conflict.
“You were bulletproof,” he says of life as a young soldier.
“So you looked around the group and thought, ‘I wonder which one of these blokes is going to get hurt, because it isn't (going to be) me'.
And everyone thought that, because you were 20 or 21 years old.”
But mortality is hard to ignore.
After returning to Australia for a period, Mr Marek was sent to Vietnam in 1968, where he discovered an entirely different conflict.
He has fond memories of the friendships and antics during his year in Vietnam with Charlie Company 2RAR, but gradually the death and grimness of war began to catch up with him.
When he came home in 1968, he sought a discharge and never returned to the army.
“I was frightened of it,” says the man who once felt bullet-proof.
“You never serve in the forces without it having some affect on you.
“I go fishing a bit and in the quiet, out in the mangroves, you do tend to sometimes look and see if everything is alright. Not so much now, but in the early stages after I came home.”
Family and work gave Mr Marek the stability to build a happy life after the army and a smile seems to rest easily on his face.
Nowadays he looks forward to ANZAC Day.
“(ANZAC Day) has evolved for me,” he says. “When I first came home it was a day off.
I'd go fishing or do something.
Then I got to the stage where I used to go to ANZAC Day and now I am heavily involved.
“ANZAC Day is a moment to gather with people of similar experiences.”