The news of the catastrophic fires in Australia has deeply sadden me. Ever since my father’s return from a visit there in 1966, I have admired this vast country with its unique ecosystem on the other side of the world.
Dad traveled to Australia twice while protecting President Johnson and left a little personal history there. In 1966, during an otherwise peaceful motorcade in Melbourne, a Vietnam war protestor threw paint bombs at the presidential limousine, subsequently dowsing several of the Secret Service agents. My father, covered in red paint, which too closely resembled blood, and his green-stained fellow Agent Lem Johns sought care at Prince Henry’s Hospital. After having paint lavaged from their eyes, they procured clean shirts from a hospital attendant, then returned to their protective duties, leaving their tainted shirts behind. Over time, these two shirts made it to the Museums Victoria Collections and are still stored there: Item HT 3200 – threads of my father’s past.
My father has another association with Australia embodied in the 1987 Australian Harness Horse of the Year, Rufus Young Blood. Below is the U-tube video link in which I learned of this magnificent animal. In this video, trainer Dick Lee explains the history of the animal’s namesake. In many videos of this horse’s race career, “Rufus Young Blood,” is cited repeatedly, excitedly, multiple times. Music to my ears.
These personal connections have magnified my affinity for this fascinating country, and I was both grateful and proud to learn of the American firefighters and volunteers who recently traveled to Australia, “to help our brothers and sisters,” as one of the volunteers said. I have learned that this working relationship is longstanding and mutual. In August 2018, Australian and New Zealand wildfire management personnel came to the U.S. and helped fight the raging fires in California for almost 30 days.
The camaraderie between the U.S. and Australia goes back even further. The U.S. State Department describes a “genuine cultural affinity and a spirit of collaboration” between our countries touting “100 years of Mateship” wherein Australians have fought alongside Americans in every major U.S. military action of the last century. (As a WWII veteran, my father would have also respected this fact.)
So, in addition to making a donation to the Australian Red Cross, I have prayed a lot for the people and wildlife in the path of these deadly fires. I encourage both – especially prayers for our brothers and sisters Down Under.
Museums Victoria Collections, Item HT 3200 link. Rufus Youngblood’s paint stained shirt worn during protest in Melbourne. https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/705575
U-tube video of Harness Horse Rufus Young Blood – I.R. Lee.
ABC World News with David Muirr, America Strong: Firefighters welcomed at Australian airport, Jan. 8, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/us-firefighters-welcomed-australian-airport-round-applause-68180095
US Embassy website, Mateship.