I Joined the Army in 2007 after years of waiting, as a 17 year old, the prospect of going to the army was exciting. My brother had enlisted and was in Iraq when I went to Kapooka. I was sent to the School Of Armour and conducted IET’s an was posted to 2/14th Light Horse Regiment (QMI) all before my 18th birthday. After conducting training in the conventional setting, I was posted to B Sqn 3/4 Cav Regt to bolster the numbers for upcoming deployments to the MEAO.
In early 2009, I was deployed as part of MRTF-2 with the 1 RAR Battle Group to Afghanistan. I had achieved my goal of doing my bit for my country; I was 19 years old at the time. I had returned to Australia as a wired 20 year old. I had seen the true face of earth, not in what I had seen overseas, but the effects it was having on my peers, my mentors and leaders. I often heard of returned servicemen “getting out” and “topping themselves”, and the stigma that went along with anyone who put their hand up for help. It was pretty disappointing.
In 2011, I deployed again back to Afghanistan with MTF-3 (2 RAR BG), though the country was the same, the pople were different, the stressors were different, and most of all, I was leading soldiers that had never been there before. On 23 Sep 2011, the vehicle I was commanding, A Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) struck an improvised explosive device in a remote valley approximately 40km North of Tarin Kowt. Initially I was concussed and knocked unconscious, I had landed on my back and was paralysed from the waist down. Unbeknown to the medical system for 3 years, I had also fractured my neck. I was flown to Tarin Kowt by an American MEDEVAC helicopter. That was my last combat mission in the MEAO, and subsequently, the rest of my career.
I was back loaded to Kandahar for medical treatment by a US Neurologist. In the hospital, I met a young marine, born the same month of the same year as I was. Though I was walking around a bit shaky and stuttering, I felt enormously guilty, for he was missing both of his legs below the knees. He told me he had stepped on an IED, and that his buddy had been seriously hurt too. Later I found out his buddy, in intensive care, had passed away. It was there and then, that I thought I could have had it a lot worse.
I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and injuries to my back, as a result of my injuries I was returned to Australia in October. Upon returning to Australia I was informed there was no Neuropsychologist Specialists in Townsville. Due to the lack of the Neuropsychologist, I was posted to Australia’s Federation Guard in Canberra so that I could see all the specialists with no frequent flying to and fro as this would exacerbate the headaches that I received from the Injury. Since then, I have recovered to a point where I can control my life. I still have headaches and back pain as a constant reminder of the blast, but as time goes on normality returns. There is also the other side effects which are common amongst todays society, though a very negative stigma is attached to it.
The reason I wish to get involved with helping other young veterans of today is simple. To prevent what happened post Vietnam happening again. There are already young soldiers/sailors and airmen who have committed suicide because they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress and other stress related injuries. They also have physical injuries that have affected their mobility, eyesight or other senses. They don’t get welcomed home like the Olympians or politicians. They come home like everyone else, through the airport door and onto normal life.
The ADF carries out resilience training and other practices to help the young diggers of today. But after these young veterans come home, they have only limited ways of coping. They get posted away from their mates of whom they have formed a close bond with, they discharge from the military and begin life as a civilian and have trouble transitioning into a world where the biggest concern for some is the fact the coffee shop is shut, they struggle with other peoples laziness and inabilities because in their old life, their job was ensuring the safety of their mates lives.
During my time in the ADF, I have seen people lose limbs and everyday functions like eyesight and hearing from their service to their country. I have seen men hard as rocks during war, break down into tears reminiscing about times past. Though I have not received an obvious and observable injury, I know full well the feelings that young men and women of today’s military feel. I merely wish to be able to provide assistance to my brothers and sisters in arms in a capacity that will allow these men and women to transition to a normal life after their service years.
Young Veterans will enable those people affected by war, to return to activities they have not conducted since their enlistment into the services. It will provide a means for today’s veterans to openly discuss their individual war experiences in the hope that it will assist them, and other veterans, into reintegrating into the civilian population.