Who is your hero? Hopefully not the nude girl on the building site.

November 12, 2013

Everywhere I go, I see a nude Miley Cyrus.

Not that I’m searching for such images. She seems to pop out of every screen I get near.

Music programs day and night. Morning chat shows. I looked up while doing the Cup form, in a reputable pub last Monday, and there she was. All skin and pout.

For those older folk who are trying to place the surname, and wondering what the hell I’m banging on about, let me assist. Cyrus, as in Billy Ray. King of the Mullet. A one hit wonder like no other.

His daughter is Miley. And I feel like she’s one of my own.

Regular readers will know I woke up with her on a Saturday morning. Or, more specifically, her show.

A few years back, Hannah Montana was a character every young girl celebrated. She was fun, and sassy, and goofy. Sang like an angel, and wise-cracked with the best of them.

Tears were shed in the family, when it all came to an end. It was assumed that she would become a wholesome, good looking young star of stage and screen.

Instead, she’s now twerking (they tell me that’s a rude dance) with older pop stars, and doing video clips hanging off giant wrecking balls in the buff.

It makes no sense. Is there no market for young, talented folk, without Johnny Young being involved?

I wondered what my girls would make of it all. In this multi-media age, sometimes it’s hard to work out who their heroes are. I had nightmares that The Teenager would start hanging around construction sites.

My fears were unfounded. They were both left scratching their heads. Love the song, hate the clip.

They would have watched her, whatever move she made. Because they liked her. She didn’t need to go feral, to keep their attention.

As a young bloke, I had no such dramas. My hero was Dad. No-one came close.

He worked hard, and had little. Whatever cash was in his pocket, was ours. The simple things made him happy. Good friends. Big laughs. The occasional cool drink.

He treated people better than anyone I ever saw. Made them feel important, whoever they may be.

On his building sites, he was patient, and good-humoured, even with the narkiest of clients.

If it hurt him that he couldn’t take us to nice places, he never showed it. Beers and chips with mates under the orange tree more than made up for it.

These days, I hear stories that parents have lost that gloss with their youngsters. I don’t buy it.

I know plenty of successful people who still talk to Mum and Dad every night. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

In our workplace, the running joke is that us old blokes have found a new hero. And he’s not family.

Ben Roberts-Smith keeps walking into the newsroom. Blocking out the sunlight as he does.

Forget the girls swooning. They reckon us blokes keep falling over ourselves to shake his giant hand. Too true. What a guy.

When it comes to heroes and role models, I think we’re still going ok. They don’t need to be nude starlets, or highly paid footy stars. Mum and Dad and Ben will do just fine. As long as there’s no twerking. And they stay away from those wrecking balls.

A hero, but not in his home town. The Officer who’s missing his family.

August 9, 2011

Meet my new friend Gary. Wide as he is tall.

Gary had been carved out of a decent block of granite. His US Navy dress uniform was sagging under the weight of battle decorations.

We were having lunch, with a few hundred others, on board his ship. He was kind enough to invite me to share his small table.

He may have been concerned that I was about to spill my over-loaded plastic plate onto the shiny deck we were standing on. Like any good officer, solving problems early.

We began chatting. He called me Sir. In every sentence. Such courtesy wasn’t necessary, but I wasn’t game to argue. He had biceps capable of hurling me to the other side of the river.

Gary loves Australia. Told me the drunkest episode of his life took place in Sydney, on his first tour.

His favourite memory of that night is how some Aussies carried him and his buddy back to their ship. I reckon those doing the carrying must have been  weightlifters.

Two junior officers joined us. The Sirs now came in triplicate.

These two were almost as thick-set as Gary. For a brief moment I lost sight of the sun.

They had promotions pending, and were banned from the grog. Gary teased them with an icy cold Australian beer, which he demolished in seconds. They shook their large, bald heads, and smiled. I could tell they looked up to him.

The junior giants moved on, removing themselves from our table of temptation, and Gary started telling me a little about himself.

His career in the Navy started 22 years ago. He’d been around the world several times over. Lots of war zones.

Last year, he’d been at sea for 270 days. About 9 months of the year away from loved ones.

He hasn’t been at home for Christmas Day since 2006. Following orders, in another time zone. I told him my girls get upset if I’m not sitting with them opening presents by 5am.

Gary laughed at that. And he wasn’t complaining. But it was clear that missing such important events was troubling him. The downside of dedicating your life to protecting others.

For just a second, I thought the tough-as-teak Navy man might shed a tear. His daughter had just turned 16. And he wasn’t there. He sent his love, long distance, over the phone.

She understood. Proud of what dad does. But not before she reminded him that it was the sixth consecutive birthday he’d missed. Since she was 10. That’s a lot of cake.

Her phone call had him thinking seriously about the future. We stopped talking, as he gazed across the river. It became clear that under that giant exterior, a heart was aching.

We stood in silence for a while. Then Gary outlined his grand plan, for when he returns to civilian life. He wants to train security officers. Maybe join the office of Homeland Security. Even his local police force.

But to do that, Gary would have to move. His voice lowered, as he told me that there was too much racism where he was raised. Still.

This proud African-American, who had risked life and limb for his country over two decades, wasn’t seen as a hero in his home town. Just another black man. No place to keep a family.

So sad. On his ship, his second home, colour and ethnic origin mean little. As long as you pull your weight, you’re part of the team. Everyone fighting for the same side.

It was time for visitors to go. He flashed a smile, shook my hand with his giant paw, and thanked me for sharing lunch. The pleasure was all mine.

I said that if he had time between fighting wars and soothing daughters, I’d like to keep in touch. He thought that sounded like a fine idea.

Through e-mail, we’ll keep tabs on how life pans out. He’s promised to give me a full description of that birthday party. And how the family settles into their new home, in their new state. They’ll be lucky to have him.

I admire my new friend Gary. So sad that a blind few in his own country can’t see that he’s a hero. His daughter will remember though, when he’s producing giant gusts to blow out those candles next year. I’ll let you know how he goes.

The grubs will never win, because of men like Damian Leeding.

June 7, 2011

I didn’t know Damian Leeding. But I know blokes like him. They’re braver than me. They go to work, not knowing if they’ll make it home.

I’ve knocked around with coppers for the best part of thirty years. Some of my best mates are either in the force, or retired from it.

People my age remember how it used to be. When the local cop ruled the roost. A boot up the bum, or a clip across the ear. Don’t do it again.

Not any more. It’s a different time. Old school is now frowned upon. Not an option. Everything today has to be by the book. Except the crooks are ignoring the script.

One thing hasn’t changed though. The good officers hate the bad guys. With a passion. They despise what they do to innocent people. And they want them off the streets.

I don’t know Damian Leeding’s widow. A police officer herself. But I know women like her. Brave partners, fully aware of the risks.

Can you imagine what it’s like, kissing someone goodbye in the morning, knowing what could lie ahead? Such strength.

As a rule, they don’t discuss those thoughts with others. But it’s always there. The silent fear.

They are incredibly supportive. It’s a tight-knit group. When the unthinkable happens, as it did last week, they grieve as one.

I don’t know Damian Leeding’s parents. But over the years, I’ve met mums and dads like them. So proud, that their son or daughter is willing to take the oathe to protect the rest of us.

Talk to the parents of a soldier, and you’ll find that same emotion. Watching their own take on the toughest of roles. Jobs that must be done.

Listen to what they say, on those awful days when the Hercules returns with another draped coffin. Words dripping with pride, and pain. In equal doses.

It’s never been tougher to be a cop. The crooks they’re chasing are a new breed. On new drugs. Those chemicals frying their brains, have also eliminated any notion of fear.

We have grubs pointing guns at teenagers, trying to make some pocket-money at their fast food restaurant. Or taking on the bloke working the night shift at the local service station. Patrons are being tied up in pubs and clubs. And it seems to be happening every other night.

These cowards carry handguns and shotguns. Knives and iron bars. Even machetes. All aimed at terrifying some poor bugger trying to make an honest dollar.

Well, enough. It’s time we made a noise. Stamped our feet. Let law makers understand that we refuse to accept low lifes getting away with it.

Police need to know we’re behind them. That the overwhelming mob, the silent majority, appreciates what they do for us, every day. Every week.

I didn’t know Damian Leeding. But I know blokes like him. They’ll shed tears for him today. And after a drink to honour his bravery, they’ll go back to work.

Over time, they’ll help with the bills, when the public appeals dry up. They’ll be around, to take Hudson and Grace to Broncos games. All the while, reminding them what a hero their dad was.

Sometime soon, they’ll also look deep inside. To think about how they’ll react, at the next robbery. Only one answer. They’ll do exactly what he did. Prepared for the ultimate sacrifice, to keep us safe. Just like Damian.