‘We're doing our jobs'
EVERY soldier has a story.
Elanora family man Corporal Michael Cole tells a story of life in Afghanistan, without the Hollywood additions and without the statistics and political spin.
It's just his job.
And as he said, there's no point taking the wage if you're not prepared to do the work.
"There's so much good stuff going on over there," Cpl Cole said.
"We were there to save the Afghan soldiers and the police and teach them to take their country back.
"A couple of my worst days were there, but we still have a job to do and we just have to get down and do it."
But the job started long before he landed in snowy Oruzgan Province.
Standing watching the waves roll in at Currumbin on Anzac Day 2002, the ordinary Elanora man decided to devote his working life to the defence force.
Before he was deployed to Afghanistan he trained in Malaysia, worked with police in the Solomon Islands and learned to speak Persian.
This training would set him up to survive in one of the most brutal environments in the world.
He saved six lives in war-torn Afghanistan, but giving first aid was the easy part.
"We got shot at a fair few times and I walked over a few IEDs (improvised explosive devices), but I was never injured," he said.
"One day we had three contacts (with hostiles).
"At the time you're not really worried about any thing, you're just trying to do your job.
"The first thing you do is, 'Where is everyone? Is everyone okay?' "
He said his training allowed him to cope on the days everyone wasn't okay.
Cpl Cole was on patrol the day Privates Grant Kirby and Tom Dale were killed by an improvised explosive device.
He heard the explosion and saw the dust fly into the air.
"We heard over the radio. There was not much chance," he said.
"The day we loaded them on to the plane, we were just thinking to ourselves hopefully we don't have to do this again.
"Then there was a radio call that another mate had died.
"That was probably the hardest day."
That mate was Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney who was killed in action by small arms fire.
Cpl Cole was also in the same patrol base as Murwillumbah man Private Nathan Bewes who was killed by an improvised explosive device.
But his mates are never far from him; emblazoned on an armband he proudly wears are the words "Brothers by Choice".
And the only person he can think to blame for the deaths of his comrades is himself.
"It doesn't make you angry at all, but it is our job and we all try to look out for each other and even if they were far away you always think, 'Is there something we could have done?'," he said.
"We're not heroes.
"The blokes like Nathan Bewes, Dave and Kirby who pay the ultimate sacrifice are the heroes.
"They're the heroes and they're going to be honoured."
For now, Cpl Cole will honour his mates from the comfort of his Elanora home with his wife Margo and daughter Trinity, 6.
He still works in the 6RAR Battalion in Enoggera, but for now it's just training and he's home for dinner every night.