16 - Dispatch From the Pillars & Epilogue

We have enjoyed our brush with Islam and weeks with the Aussies - and both Arabia and Australia seem unfazed by their close association with us 2 Americans. On the other hand we find ourselves awake by morning prayer time, my accent is getting a little broad - and yesterday Jean called a cookie a "biscuit." Can "too right!" "fair dinkum!" and "good on ya cobber!" be far behind? Rain is falling and laundry is overdue - maybe time to go.

This travel thru the Middle East, chasing Granddad and then adding in the Aussies has answered many questions and raised many more - and only emphasizes that you never know when a small kernel of knowledge learned in one place, will be put to good use in another.

We learned that to become a Muslim, for example, one has to follow a simple list - the 5 pillars of Islam - which is basically:

1. Say that there is only one God and that Mohammad is his prophet - and mean it.
2. Once in your life - go on the Haj to the holy city of Mecca.
3. At least 5 times a day - pray.
4. As often as you can - give alms to the needy.
5. Fast morning to night during the month of Ramadan.

Using that knowledge, I now believe to have found a parallel in becoming a proper Aussie - there seems to be 5 pillars of Aussiedom too:

1. Say "G'day" to all your friends, call them your mates - and mean it.
2. Once in your life - go to the Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove.
3. At least 5 times a day - drink a beer.
4. As often as you can - buy your mates a drink
5. Fast from real food each morning - and instead eat Vegemite.

But far deeper than that, there is an additional something that is in most Australians - Gallipoli. Can I yet understand it - or explain it? Perhaps I can … if I tell you about Private Simpson - the man with the donkey.

It is not the generals, or of those to whom medals were awarded, that the ANZAC statues were cast. It was this common man who stole a donkey and against orders, calmly carried wounded comrades down from the crags to medical help at the beach, again and again - until he too was killed 24 days later.

Simpson is the one that Australia knows best, loves most, who's spirit they hope to emulate - and whose traits they value the highest. The man who puts it all on the line for his mates - simple, faithful and practical, with humor and irreverence - that is the true Aussie character - and their legacy from the ANZACs. To be like Simpson is to be a good Aussie - simple as that.

Jean and I have passed all the tests, climbed all the pillars - all except that Vegemite one which apparently, is being overlooked. This morning, as we were returning to Istanbul, one of our new mates pinned a little gold kangaroo on Jean's jumper (sweater) and pinned up my hat brim with a little Australian flag. How perfect a way to leave all these cobbers - our new mates - and I mean it. Now we return home and I must sign off - time for alms and a few cold prayers - mates. 'Til next time …

- Southern Cross Stew


As for Granddad, our quest is not over. Our interest in his WWI days has spread into his later years. I have documents showing he was on the staff of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) between the world wars, yet cannot find out when he left the service or what he did during WWII. Family stories of his being in London and a spy in Norway are intriguing. According to one 1935 newspaper item, he "is well known in circles interested in the study of languages" and spoke German like a native. But his records of the period have not been released by the Australian officials … hmmmm?

Perhaps a trip to Canberra is needed to fill in these blanks in Granddad's story - not just for me and his other grandsons, but for his great-grand daughters Christy, Wendy and Holly - AND his great-great grandsons Whitfield and brand-new baby Jack Donovan O'Connell - born on the day Jean and I returned to the States. Welcome to the family Jack … let me tell you a story about your Great-Great Granddad ...

- Great (or at least pretty good) Uncle Rod

By Rod & Jean Stewart