Michael & Trenten Troiano's stories
In 2004, In 2004 I was sitting on the steps of Flinders’ street station in Melbourne, Victoria. I had just been to the hot food van to get myself something to eat. My clothes were in tatters and it was cold due to the Victorian frost. I remember the stare that some commuters would give me as they walked past or even the local police wondering if I was a trouble maker. I can understand their stare but, the truth is that I was just a young kid in a situation that hurt me but also made me stronger. Since I was a kid my brother and I would both play army as we both loved it; my pop was a soldier and we both wanted to wear that uniform.
In 2006 my twin brother joined the Australian Army and when I saw my family’s name on the camouflaged shirt, I knew then that it was time for me to start my journey. I enlisted in April 2007 and joined the Royal Australian Regiment and was posted to the 7th Battalion and deployed in 2008 to Southern Afghanistan.
In 2008 I went to Iraq part of the Operation Catalyst. I loved the camaraderie and friendships in the army. I remember one occasion, no, I remember many occasions whilst in Iraq. I remember thinking how surreal it was being 19 years old and sitting in an OB, in a land completely alien from where I came. Then it was the other time where I was in a roof top with mortar shells going everywhere and seeing this boy just playing with sticks and stones. I remember thinking that this is all this kid knows...
I remember the winter, I remember the cold and I remember staring down at my camouflage uniform and feeling I’ve been here before. I remember watching the local people walk past and stare but their stare was different. They were not so different to the faces I was once greeted with in Melbourne. Not a stare of wondering if I am trouble maker but a face of nervousness and intrigue. The Afghan people are a strong and proud people and in so many ways their sense of community and respect for family was something I really respected.
Thought they had little possessions they were grateful and would share to those with less.
I remember one Afghan local who used to work on our Base and help build accommodation blocks. I remember sitting with him during his lunch period and having my laptop with me and I was showing him photos of home and remember his face; he couldn’t believe my house something I think I used to take for granted and showing him a picture of my car. He was so joyful and happy yet he had nothing close to what I had. I remember shaking his hand and him telling me in his broken English that if he ever comes to Australia that we should continue our conversation, I treated him with dignity and respect and he opened his heart to me.
I can’t remember his name but I remember the man he was and I remember his struggle in his country but I remember thinking to myself: how did I meet a man in the face of great adversity yet so joyful for someone else. This man brought a donkey to work and lived in a mud brick home. How very different was my life compared to his yet regardless of religious, social or political views or opinions, the joy and honest compassion for others was the fundamental value that was evident that we all possess as humans.
I was the soldier and he was the people. But as a soldier I am still always one of the people.
I returned home in mid 2009 with a sense of relief and looking forward to a holiday after the past months.
A few years ago I was going around a local shopping centre in Secret Harbour and this kid stopped to ask me about my bracelet. I told him that it has the name of my good friend who have died in Iraq.
We arrived in Darwin and I remember getting of the plane and hearing the whistles and cheering and seeing all the faces of my mates family’s and friends. I looked around to see if someone in my family was there or my former girlfriend as our relationship had broken down while I was there. But in this instance there wasn’t. My brother and I had always protected one another and supported each other for strength but unfortunately he was away on course and couldn’t be there. I remember dropping my sunglasses to cover my eyes as I walked through the crowed to conceal the tears that started to run from my face. And I boarded the bus to take me to base.