Helicopters flying frightfully close, teenagers in military outfits, sailors with funny white hats and free tattoos. This (and much, much more) is our town’s annual military tattoo. It’s fun, it’s free but it is, at the end of the day, a recruitment drive.

Though my kids love this mid June day each year, a part of me wants to cover their eyes and ears and say, “No child of mine will join the armed forces”,  said in a low serious and protective voice. My 6 year old son already loves war stuff and begged me to take him to the Navy tent to collect some freebies. He walked away with a tattoo, some stickers and a brochure but was kicking himself that he didn’t pick up the Navy newspaper, which he really wanted. He even asked if we could go back to pick one up… um… no.

The tattoo is pretty spectacular. Last year it had troop carriers that the kids climbed over but this year they replaced that with a massive gun! I wondered if there was a hidden message in this?

The highlight of the day, however, is the helicopter. Picture a field. People stand obediently on the edges as the military (usually cadets poor things) make a circle for the heli (that’s what Bear Grylls calls it) to land. The air, thick with anticipation, is thick… with anticipation. Babies cry. Balloons are swiftly stored in cars as the crowd searches the sky.

An announcement is made, though no one can hear it but the mumbling of it makes people acutely aware of what’s about to take place. It means that it is time to hold onto your hats because the heli is about to  appearance. There it is! It circles around and around, coming ever closer with each turn. Then it arrives with a deep throaty rumble. The blades are fast and sharp and a little too close for comfort. Just before it reaches the ground the wind picks up and everyone except the bravest soul turns around and covers their eyes.

The helicopter arrives bringing with it some really interesting hair styles. The wind-swept look is back! The blades start to slow down as the heli rests on the ‘H’ spot. All involved breathe a sigh of relief and the kids (and some adults) have to be held back from leaping straight into the helicopter cockpit and taking off. So darn exciting.

After everything has stopped moving and the blades are tied down, the crowd descends on the poor ‘copter pilots. Questions are fired about its make and history and, what the heck does this button do? And Julia Gillard points her finger once more at our kids and says “Australia needs YOU!”

Then there are the Police cars, Fire Engines and Navy divers as well as a funny old bus which serves as a Vietnam War museum on wheels. With our hair rustled, our eyes squinty and our military hole in our hearts filled, we head home to check out what footage we were able to grab before the helicopter sucked our eyeballs out. A good day. A nervous day. But one I’m sure the kids won’t forget… and that’s just what Julia wants… mwha ha ha ha ha!