Suicide epidemic for our veterans

August 07, 2017

Veitnam Veterans. Photo by Luke Hemer.

SUICIDE has claimed the lives of 43 former Australian Defence Forces personnel this calendar year.

And there are still four months to go.

In less than a fortnight in July five took their own lives.

Vietnam veterans were amongst them, but so were people who had been deployed to the Middle East, to Afghanistan and East Timor.

It is news that is breaking the hearts of not just their immediate families but also the wider community of Australian veterans.

Moama RSL sub-branch welfare officer, and Vietnam veteran Ken ‘KC’ Jones, is at the point of pleading for any veteran, or family member of a veteran, to contact him for support.

“Any veteran looking for a mate will find one with us, and with any RSL sub-branch, they don’t have to try and cope with it alone,” KC said.

“We can help with any welfare issue, but most importantly we can sit and listen, we can talk and we are only a phone call away,” he said.

The Vietnam Veterans Association will be staging its annual badge week starting August 10 and running up to its Long Tan Service at 11am on August 18 at the Echuca Cenotaph.

“It will only be a short service but it is such an important event on our calendar,” KC added.

“There will be a short reading, The Ode and Last Post but it is an opportunity for people to come along and share the moment with us.”

The Battle of Long Tan was fought on August 18 in 1966 in a rubber plantation outside the town of Long Tan in Phuoc Tuy province.

After several artillery assaults on Nui Dat by North Vietnamese forces and counter battery fire by Allied units, Australian troops were sent forward to locate a force of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers.

They collided in the rubber plantation where D Company, with 108 men, began a pitched battle with as many as 2000 enemy.

By the time the fighting was over the next day 18 Australians were dead and 24 wounded. But the enemy had lost at least 245 and possibly more.

A decisive Australian victory, Long Tan proved a major local setback for the Viet Cong, indefinitely forestalling an imminent movement against Nui Dat.

“The problem we are seeing now is we don’t believe personnel leaving the ADF are sufficiently debriefed and supported,” KC said.

“There is no follow up, someone should be in close contact for at least the first six months,” he said.

“But the problem with post-traumatic stress disorder is it can take years to manifest itself, and by then people have been out of the system too long. We have just had a case with a former soldier based in Deni who we have been helping.

“Which is where we come in and why fundraising events such as our badge week, are so vital in helping us fund the support so many so obviously need.”

■Badge sellers will be located at Woolworths in Moama, Lucky Lotto and the Post Office in Echuca and also in Rochester.

■If you are, or someone you know is, feeling depressed, or have any concerns, please contact KC Jones on 0408 384 670 or call beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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