Soldiers need help to adjust, to regroup

Thursday, July 5, 2018

WITH Anzac Day less than a week away, it’s time we think about how we are helping those who are still serving and those who have returned but are still fighting their own battles.
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A lot has been done this year to promote the Anzac centenary, yet it seems not much has been done to help those defence personnel who really need it.

The support is increasing – the federal government recently released a phone app to help ADF personnel manage stress and build psychological resilience and the Young Diggers is training dogs to match with returned soldiers to combat post-traumatic stress disorder – but more needs to be done. An ABC 7.30 report last October revealed there could be as many as 500 veterans in prison across Australia.

It said PTSD had led many to that outcome. It also stated those figures were uncertain as no agency kept track of what happened to soldiers when they returned home from war.

A few days before Anzac Day last year, I met a returned Launceston serviceman from Westbury who believed more needed to be done to help reintegrate people back into society. Tony Keefe was 18 when he joined the army and later posted to the 5th/7th mechanised infantry battalion.

He was deployed in Butterworth, Malaysia, for three months in 1997, did a six-week exchange to Hawaii and served seven months in East Timor when conflict broke out in 1999.

He told me of the difficulty coming home and starting work again in a security role at the Ashley Detention Centre.

“You go up and say [to the youth] can you do this for me and they say ‘nar, do it yourself’ – it’s a bit of a shock,” he said. “You’re so used to if someone tells you to do something, it’s done.”

While it is not an extreme example of how soldiers struggle to readjust, the simple matter of someone not following an order was hard to digest for Tony.

It seems without support, life is hard to adjust to for many returned soldiers.

Last year, the number of serving and former soldiers who had committed suicide was reportedly more than triple Australia’s combat toll in Afghanistan.

Imagine if everyone who was paying to go to Gallipoli this year for the 100th commemoration had given part of that money to help struggling veterans and serving personal back home.

It could have made a difference.

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