'Beyond the call' stories

Stories from veterans and their families

Beyond the Call is a book of stories that 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 moving stories seeks to increase awareness of the breadth of experience of Australia's veteran community and to increase understanding of the challenges faced by veterans and their families every day.

When people speak of veterans, often we think of older gentlemen who have fought in the World Wars or in the jungles of Vietnam. However there is a changing demographic in the veteran population. Today, there is greater diversity not only among veterans themselves, but within the veteran experience and the experiences of their friends and family.

While we may not immediately recognise that someone is a veteran, their experiences within the military and on deployments are likely to have implications for the way in which they relate to us. Many of these individuals might still carry with them the mental and physical effects of their experience. There is now a greater understanding and acceptance of the potential impacts of the military experience and warlike or peacekeeping service 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.

* This publication is available in hard-copy and can be obtained by request through the At Ease mailbox at: at-ease [at] dva.gov.au (subject: General%20Enquiries)

The lid's off the box

When I first met him, Ben was completely different to how he is now. It's hard to say definitely what's caused the changes because, you know, it was fifteen odd years ago and all people change; when you're married you change, when you have children you change.

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Stand still with me

My family just got on with life. Because we had to. We knew there were some effects from what had happened to Dad but my father tended to bury those. He really sought comfort from the community that he built up within the defence force: the mates he had. They would meet up and talk at the mess - that was a typical scenario.

Read/download full story - Stand still with me (PDF, 1.72MB)

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.

Read/download full story - The important things (PDF, 1.88MB)

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.'

Read/download full story - Lucky for me (PDF, 2.02MB)

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.

Read/download full story - One generation after another (PDF, 1.61MB)

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.

Read/download full story - A bit naive (PDF, 1.70MB)

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.

Read/download full story - Come a long way (PDF, 2.02MB)

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.

Read/download full story - Just a girl from the mill (PDF, 2.48MB)