Stan Hessey, an Anglican priest, spent twenty years as an Australian Regular Army Chaplain. During one twelve-month period, in 1969-70, Father Stan served in Vietnam as a chaplain with the 8th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. His Vietnam War experiences are at the heart of Walking With Grunts: A Memoir of My Year in Vietnam as an Australian Army Chaplain with the 8th Infantry Battalion (Xlibris, 87 pp., $53.49, paper).
“During the year I served in Vietnam I was often reminded of Kipling’s Gunga Din,” Hessey writes, “who tries to bring water to the troops. My ‘water’ would be spiritual. Sometimes it seemed impossible.”
Working with the Australian troops in Vietnam, Hessey says, “was a time of great testing. Many were conscripted and very young. They did the job they were trained to do, and believe me, they did it well. It was popular during and after the war to pour scorn on these men for doing their duty. Their job was not approved of by many of their fellow citizens. But they upheld Anzac tradition. Even today those Diggers stand ten foot tall. I know, because I walked in their shadow.”