Last week’s episode of In Their Footsteps struck a chord with many Australian families that have been fractured by the lasting impact of war.
It featured 41-year-old Mark Hippisley and his quest to follow in the footsteps of his father, Terry, a Digger who served in the Vietnam War and took part in the Battle of Coral, our biggest battle in what became our longest war.
Terry, or ‘Hippo’ as he’s known to his mates, carried many physical and mental wounds from his war service through his subsequent life, which have seen him estranged from his son and family.
The Hippisley family has a long military history, having served in World War I, World War II and Vietnam. Mark Hippisley tried to follow that tradition and, after being an Air Force Cadet as a child, he went on to full-time RAAF service. But a workplace injury cut short his military career, truncated his life-long ambition and contributed to driving a wedge between him and his father.
Hippo has hidden his lingering pain beneath his larrikin facader. His reserved son, Mark walks in his father’s footsteps in Vietnam, from the battlefields of a rubber plantation to the busy streets of Vung Tau.
In an extraordinary voyage of discovery, Mark finds a deeper understanding of the cost of war and, ultimately, of his father.