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Our defence force is facing a real crisis with our soldiers and in particularly, our soldiers when they have finished a tour of duty and expected to return to ‘normality’.
Just because your feet are back on home soil, does not constitute being back to normal. For many soldiers, the war is just beginning.
Imagine the drama in a soldier’s life – you have been sitting in a trench or tent in the middle of the desert for months at a time, bombs going off all around you, you may have witnessed your friends and colleagues being blown up or severely injured, your sleep is disrupted night after steamy night and your nerves are on high alert even in your sleep. Part of their work is mopping up after the slaughter of innocent civilians caught up in a war zone. You’re not exhausted, you are beyond that and yet you soldier on to defend our country so the rest of Australia doesn’t have to. That is just a part of the soldier’s life and a long way from ‘normality’.
Whilst they were away, they may have received emails from family about events back home – but they weren’t able to share the joy of that event. They may have had Skype phone calls with their wife or partner and children – but they didn’t get to kiss them goodnight and hug them. They may have seen photos of hometown – but they weren’t able to feel the sand between their toes on the beach walk, they didn’t taste the coffee whilst you sat at the cafe and they couldn’t touch that tomato you finally grew in the garden. The small things we can do every day has been removed from their lives in the name of duty.
Many soldiers take personal responsibility for the loss of their mates and go through all sorts of blame and ‘what if’s’. These horror memories that they just can’t shift and often withdraw from society whilst hurting inside. They are desperately needing our help.
Our soldiers can’t just return to normality when the past months or years have been far from normality. They need mandatory psychological tests and constant follow ups. They need to be surrounded with support people who know what signs to look for and a buddy that they can talk to.
Many soldiers return home to find their relationship has broken down or severely fractured which only aspirates the problem. And so they withdraw even further.
Whilst the war overseas may be over, the new war is just beginning at home.
Sometimes the ‘last post’ is a very dark place for a returned soldier. Some of their scars will never heal; some of their wounds are simply invisible. Suicide is a reality. Depression is common. PTSD is the enemy. They don’t need to be left alone, they need our support and love.