We must fight for our veter­ans be­fore it’s too late for them

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD - PETER GLEE­SON

It’s only when he starts talk­ing about the down­ward spi­ral as­so­ci­ated with too much al­co­hol, drugs and gam­bling, does his voice be­gin to crack.

“Nobody re­ally knows what goes on be­tween these ears,’’ he says.

“Walk a mile in my shoes mate. It’s a dif­fer­ent world.’’

The bloke sit­ting along­side me is a good man.

He loves his wife and daugh­ter and is at ease most on a lazy Sun­day af­ter­noon watch­ing his favourite footy team.

But he walks a daily, emo­tional tightrope, pred­i­cated on a lengthy tour of duty to Rwanda, where the lo­cals killed 800,000 of their own, the largest act of geno­cide since World War II.

Be­ing ex­posed to death, sick­ness and the worst of hu­man­ity has cre­ated the per­fect psy­cho­log­i­cal storm.

It could have been any­where. Afghanista­n, East Ti­mor, Iraq ... PTSD does not dis­crim­i­nate.

Of the mates he still has di­rect con­tact with from Rwanda, half can­not work due to PTSD. Sev­eral have taken their lives.

The sad re­al­ity for Aus­tralia is that we are not only los­ing our young men in the the­atre of war or try­ing to keep the peace, but also when they re­turn.

Aus­tralia needs a com­pre­hen­sive, pro­fes­sional repa­tri­a­tion pol­icy for our re­turned ser­vice­men.

Putting them into sit­u­a­tions where they are trained to kill, or be killed, is a ‘unique’ ca­reer.

Surely then if we are ask­ing for our men and women to do ‘unique’ things then the least we can do is cre­ate a sys­tem that truly sup­ports these same men and women prop­erly, ef­fec­tively and in a timely man­ner?

If new De­fence Min­is­ter Linda Reynolds wants to make a dif­fer­ence, she must tackle this fes­ter­ing sore. In the US, veter­ans are treated as he­roes.

Here, in­vari­ably, we kick them to the kerb.

Real lead­ers make a dif­fer­ence and there is a co­hort of re­turned Aussie sol­diers who are cry­ing out for help.

Surely this is not too much to ask?

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