'Beyond the call' stories

Learn how generations of veteran families have worked through the unique challenges of their ADF experiences.

 

Contents

Overview

Beyond the Call celebrates the experiences and resilience of veterans with mental health and/or substance abuse issues, and the way in which their partners and families have supported them.

This collection of stories raises awareness of the breadth of experience of Australia's veteran community, and understanding of the challenges faced by veterans and their families every day. 

When we think about veterans, we tend to picture 'old people', maybe a grandfather who fought in World War II or in the jungles of Vietnam. But the veteran demographic is becoming younger so they 'veteran' challenges they face are different from the stereotypes. The veteran community is also more diverse than ever. 

While we may not immediately recognise that someone is a veteran by sight, their experiences within the military and on deployments affect the way they relate to us. Many veterans will always carry the mental and physical effects of their service.

There is now greater understanding and acceptance of the impacts of military experience on the mental health and wellbeing of military personnel and their family members. However, there is still more to learn and greater understanding to be gained through the experiences of the veterans themselves.

For a copy of Beyond the Call, email at-ease [at] dva.gov.au (subject: General%20Enquiries)

Stories

The lid's off the box

I was jealous when Ben went to Rwanda. He was over there for six months and the minute he stepped foot back in the door, I knew he had a problem. I got that otherworldly feeling from him.

In those first couple of years, Ben was trying to hold it together but there was an escalation of his symptoms. Anxiety, depression, flashbacks, dreams, social withdrawal, incredible night sweats, all those things. 

I was doing psychology at uni then and I’d say to him, ‘We need to sort this. This is not going to get better.’ But I hit a brick wall for years. He was absolutely mortified to think that people were going to find out he had an issue.

Stand still with me

My dad is carrying a lot of pain.

We’re in a society that’s bound by rules and there’s more rules in the defence force and there’s still more rules in the male community. And these rules are very, very, very deep. It’s too hard to look in the mirror.

Th e pain builds and it’s locked up and you can’t penetrate it. There have been times I just couldn’t reach him.

The important things

I had no photo training or anything. I just went to see the Commanding Officer and I said, 'Boss, can I be the unit photographer?' And he went, 'Can you take a photo?' And I said, 'Well, I've got a new camera!' I'd seen some photographers in uniform getting around East Timor and the photos that were coming out were so powerful.

Lucky for me

I spent three-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war and one of the things that I took out of it was that when I got home, I was going to be a gentleman and I was going to let Muriel have a good look at me first. I wouldn't be expecting her to do anything: not to marry me or stay with me. As prisoners we said, we correctly said, 'We'll all be changed.'

One generation after another

I'm a welfare officer now. I used to go into schools and teach about Vietnam. There were five of us. I talked about the impact of war on the families of the men who came home. When you think about it, there's been one generation after another that's gone to war; you had fathers and sons in World War I and World War II, quite close together.

A bit naive

I remember Dad telling me about how, when he was young, he was in the Scouts and he went to the World Jamboree in England. He would talk about catching the boat across and the people he met. It was a bit like a legacy and that was the thing for me, you know? That when you get a bit older and a bit wrinklier and you're talking to your own kids, you're telling them your stories.

Come a long way

There really wasn't a start at all and well, that's half the problem. It all just happened. One day I was born and I was brought home from hospital and basically after that, it's the way things were. Dad used to get angry and people used to get upset and that was just our family. We didn't even really figure out that we had problems until I was sixteen.

Just a girl from the mill

I was seventeen when I met Ken. I lived in a little shipbuilding town in Scotland and I was working at the sugar mill. In that town, you just grew up to work in the mills; the boys all went to the shipyards and the girls all went to the mill, and if the teachers saw any spark in you, you'd be a nurse or an accountant.