Jim Bourke looks frail but dignified in a comfortable chair. To a steady drumbeat, unseen equipment delivers oxygen to the retired lieutenant colonel’s cancer-ridden lungs. Bourke is in a buoyant mood on a grey day in Melbourne. His missions in life are now largely accomplished.
His daughter, Sarah, and a few good mates — Gordon Peterson, Peter Aylett and Paul Darrouzet — sit by his side, smile gently at his jokes and anecdotes, and nod respectfully at the war stories.
“Every day is a bonus — it’s been my mantra since then,” Bourke says. By way of explanation, he points to a Vietnam War photo of him getting battlefield treatment for a bullet that tore through his mouth and exited below his left ear in January 1966.
“It took my mind off sex for a few minutes,” adds Bourke. A glutton for punishment, he recovered and returned to Vietnam in 1968 for a second tour.