About Us

Chris May

SERVICE DETAILS

RANK:                                       Corporal

SERVICE:                                 Australian Regular Army

CORPS:                                     Royal Australian Armoured Corps

PERIOD:                                  April 2007 – Current

OCCUPATION:                      Crewman Commander ASLAV

UNIT:                                       2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment

B Squadron 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment

Australia’s Federation Guard

Australian Defence Force Academy

DEPLOYMENTS:                   AFGHANISTAN

Mentoring & Reconstruction Task Force 2(MRTF-2), 2009-10

Mentoring Task Force 3 (MTF-3), 2011-12

 

I Joined the Army in 2007 after years of waiting, as a 17 year old, the prospect of going to the army was exciting. My brother had enlisted and was in Iraq when I went to Kapooka. I was sent to the School Of Armour and conducted IET’s an was posted to 2/14th Light Horse Regiment (QMI) all before my 18th birthday. After conducting training in the conventional setting, I was posted to B Sqn 3/4 Cav Regt to bolster the numbers for upcoming deployments to the MEAO.

In early 2009, I was deployed as part of MRTF-2 with the 1 RAR Battle Group to Afghanistan. I had achieved my goal of doing my bit for my country; I was 19 years old at the time. I had returned to Australia as a wired 20 year old. I had seen the true face of earth, not in what I had seen overseas, but the effects it was having on my peers, my mentors and leaders. I often heard of returned servicemen “getting out” and “topping themselves”, and the stigma that went along with anyone who put their hand up for help. It was pretty disappointing.

In 2011, I deployed again back to Afghanistan with MTF-3 (2 RAR BG), though the country was the same, the pople were different, the stressors were different, and most of all, I was leading soldiers that had never been there before. On 23 Sep 2011, the vehicle I was commanding, A Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) struck an improvised explosive device in a remote valley approximately 40km North of Tarin Kowt. Initially I was concussed and knocked unconscious, I had landed on my back and was paralysed from the waist down. Unbeknown to the medical system for 3 years, I had also fractured my neck. I was flown to Tarin Kowt by an American MEDEVAC helicopter. That was my last combat mission in the MEAO, and subsequently, the rest of my career.

I was back loaded to Kandahar for medical treatment by a US Neurologist. In the hospital, I met a young marine, born the same month of the same year as I was. Though I was walking around a bit shaky and stuttering, I felt enormously guilty, for he was missing both of his legs below the knees. He told me he had stepped on an IED, and that his buddy had been seriously hurt too. Later I found out his buddy, in intensive care, had passed away. It was there and then, that I thought I could have had it a lot worse.

I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and injuries to my back, as a result of my injuries I was returned to Australia in October. Upon returning to Australia I was informed there was no Neuropsychologist Specialists in Townsville. Due to the lack of the Neuropsychologist, I was posted to Australia’s Federation Guard in Canberra so that I could see all the specialists with no frequent flying to and fro as this would exacerbate the headaches that I received from the Injury. Since then, I have recovered to a point where I can control my life. I still have headaches and back pain as a constant reminder of the blast, but as time goes on normality returns. There is also the other side effects which are common amongst todays society, though a very negative stigma is attached to it.

The reason I wish to get involved with helping other young veterans of today is simple. To prevent what happened post Vietnam happening again. There are already young soldiers/sailors and airmen who have committed suicide because they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress and other stress related injuries. They also have physical injuries that have affected their mobility, eyesight or other senses. They don’t get welcomed home like the Olympians or politicians. They come home like everyone else, through the airport door and onto normal life.

The ADF carries out resilience training and other practices to help the young diggers of today. But after these young veterans come home, they have only limited ways of coping. They get posted away from their mates of whom they have formed a close bond with, they discharge from the military and begin life as a civilian and have trouble transitioning into a world where the biggest concern for some is the fact the coffee shop is shut, they struggle with other peoples laziness and inabilities because in their old life, their job was ensuring the safety of their mates lives.

During my time in the ADF, I have seen people lose limbs and everyday functions like eyesight and hearing from their service to their country. I have seen men hard as rocks during war, break down into tears reminiscing about times past. Though I have not received an obvious and observable injury, I know full well the feelings that young men and women of today’s military feel. I merely wish to be able to provide assistance to my brothers and sisters in arms in a capacity that will allow these men and women to transition to a normal life after their service years.

Young Veterans will enable those people affected by war, to return to activities they have not conducted since their enlistment into the services. It will provide a means for today’s veterans to openly discuss their individual war experiences in the hope that it will assist them, and other veterans, into reintegrating into the civilian population.

CL May

Sven Thompson

SERVICE DETAILS

RANK:                                      Corporal

SERVICE:                               Australian Regular Army

CORPS:                                   Royal Australian Armoured Corps

PERIOD:                                 December 00 – Current

OCCUPATION:                     Crewman Commander ASLAV

UNITS:                                    2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry)

School of Armour, Cavalry Troop.

2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry)

School of Armour , Driving and Servicing wing

DEPLOYMENTS:                  Iraq, Baghdad Security detachment 11 (SECDET)

Op RELEX (Border patrol) 2003

 

I joined the Australian Army straight at the age of 17, it was something I wanted to do my entire life, my father was a career Solider and I had alot of exposure to both the Army and the Royal Australian Armoured Corps whilst growing up. Joining the Army was a life changing event and I had to grow up quickly in an organization where I was once again the youngest in the group, from day one I knew that being a soldier was what I wanted to do and I took every opportunity to enhance my training and my ability within the corp. I was very heavily involved in Army sport, I was a very keen and eager Rugby Union player and even lucky enough to play in the Australian Army side.

In 2003 I was doing my lead up training for my first deployment to East Timor when I had a vehicle accident causing a severe ankle injury which resulted in me being removed from the trip and requiring a full ankle reconstruction. This injury was the first of many that I sustained and to this day I have ongoing surgeries and treatment on a number of issues and will continue to do so for the unseen future. I am currently in the process of being medically discharged from the Army due to an internal abdomen condition, which has seen me have in excess of 15 operations in the last 2 years. Specialists are still trying to identify the cause, with one theory being, that it may have been something that I may have been exposed to whilst serving in Iraq.

For the last two and a half years I have been employed as an instructor at the School of Armour (SOARMD) serving as driver trainer as well as a reconnaissance scout instructor for a short time, Instructing young Soldier’s on ASLAV (Australian Light Armoured Vehicle)driving and servicing, It  has been one of the highlights of my military career as it allowed me to pass on expertise and knowledge that I have gained over a number of years. I will miss being an instructor in the Army as it is something that I have enjoyed and will always have very fond memories of.

When I was approached by Scott asking if I wanted to help out with his idea to raise money for a number of charities that aide Soldiers and their families dealing with both mental and physical injuries, I couldn’t pass it up. I have worked with a number of defence charities in the past, which included hosting the QLD state of origin luncheon with all proceeds going to 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment’s welfare centre where deployed members families could go and meet on a weekly basis. The centre was equipped with computers for family to send emails to their loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan as well as having counselling support if required. This is something that I am passionate about as I feel that once we withdraw from Afghanistan, Government support will dry up for counselling and medical services for veterans of Australia’s longest conflict.

An event like this is important for Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen/women as it will allow support continued help and assistance to those who require and need it as well as allow us to pass on our own experience to the public and make them more aware of what we do whilst deployed overseas. Education and passing on what many servicemen and women go through when we come home is an imperative component of this.

Sven John Thompson

Scott May

SERVICE DETAILS

RANK:                                         Lance Corporal

SERVICE:                                 Australian Regular Army

CORPS:                                     Royal Australian Armoured Corps

PERIOD:                                   November 2005 – November 2009

OCCUPATION:                      Crewman Gunner ASLAV

UNIT:                                       2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment

DEPLOYMENTS:                  IRAQ

Security Detachment 11 (SECDET 11) 2007

AFGHANISTAN

Reconstruction Task Force 4(RTF-4) 2008

 

10th of July 2017, just another job, as I sat on top of the turret hatch talking to my Crew Commander and Jake our driver, we were in the green zone on Haifa St, Baghdad, Iraq. We were waiting for another call sign to rendezvous with us when an explosion was heard approximately 100 meters away, and then another on the other side of the wall we were parked next to. We closed down and waited knowing the armour of our ASLAV will keep us safe. When the barrage of 32 motars subsided we could hear screams from outside, they were people screaming for help.

I opened up the vehicle and through the dust I could see two people on the footpath, my crew commander and I ran across the road to help the two wounded American soldiers, one had been hit in the leg and the other lay still on the footpath with a small blood stain on her stomach. Although we only met for the briefest of moments I will never forget her name, she left an everlasting impression on me and I wish we could have met in better circumstances. Captain Maria Ortiez passed away a short time later as a result of the wounds she received from a mortar exploding next to her as she crossed the road to begin her shift at the US Military Hospital where she was a nurse.

I conducted a second deployment to Afghanistan a year later, I volunteered as the three weeks I had been home were horrible. I hated being in crowds, I would watch people complain about menial things and my friends from home didn’t quite understand me. When I was away I lived with mates who had similar mind sets and it worked and made sense.

On returning home after my second deployment I struggled with depression and fatigue. I felt like I had lost my way in the world and there was no one in the Army I could turn to for help, so I discharged and found myself wandering aimlessly. I was restless and found I couldn’t relate to the people I worked with, they didn’t quite get ‘it’. My relationship with my wife was strained and she was constantly worried about me, I had lost my smile, I wasn’t the happy person I was when we met. I have since moved on with my life and am now a Constable of Police, I still have my ups and downs and I know my wife is with me every step of the way.

I have many friends with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from their experiences in the ADF, I have had friends killed overseas, I have had to tell my own mother her youngest son was injured by a roadside bomb. We need to educate the community that there are young people amongst them who have been shattered in the prime of their life, serving their country on foreign soil. I feel we have an obligation to assist the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen/women who have been suffering after being exposed to the trauma of living in a war zone.

We hear ‘ANZAC Spirit’ and ‘Mateship’ from sports commentators and media outlets when they want to evoke some kind of emotion. Frankly, I don’t think a football team can be compared to the diggers of wars past and present, these terms were cemented in Australian culture by servicemen and women who on the battlefield and at home, looked after one another and helped a mate in need. To put it simply, that’s what I’m trying to do.

SA May

Scott Andrew May