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