Joining the Infantry
I was 22 years old when I joined the army. I had my own business as a plumber but didn’t think that I’d have a business until I turned 30. I was bored so started thinking “Is this it?” I wanted a challenge and to fight for the country. When I saw an ad with soldiers flying a helicopter and thought that it looked like fun so I submitted the application. Four months later I was off to Kapooka for infantry training. I wanted to join the infantry because I believe if you want to join the Army you should do it all the way. It seemed like the ultimate task. I served for 9 years and 10 months.
Active Duty to 403
I wasn’t surprised to learn that I would be medically discharged. I knew for a couple of years that I was struggling but thought that I could fake my way through. Tell everyone what they wanted to hear. It wasn’t a surprise. The downgrade was quick though. One day I was active duty and the next I was 403.
I was devastated. It was the worst feeling I had ever felt. My career was over... everything I’d ever worked hard for. I was working hard to advance my career and then being told that was it. No going back to work ever again. No wearing cams or representing the country. I felt ashamed of myself.
I still feel this way, never giving myself a break. I talk to my psychologist. Rehabilitation has assisted me achieving a sense of purpose.
I haven’t had any issues accessing treatment through DVA. I was referred to a psychologist and psychiatrist straight away from my GP. My psychiatrist has a lot of experience working with ex-military personnel which helps. The White Card was provided before I was discharged. I was able to seek specialists without any issues. I was referred to a DVA rehabilitation program 12 months after I discharged. The rehab program has been good. The courses I did have been paid for. I’ve been well looked after.
Support from Family
My parents have been included in all the psych based courses. They’ve been actively involved in my treatment. My family gets a bit of enjoyment seeing me off trying to learn the sailing courses.
“Yachtmaster” Sailing Course
The Yachtmaster Sailing Course is a series of courses to prepare a person to become the skipper of a ship. The course is recognised around the world. I was drawn to it because I like being out on the water. I feel like I don’t have to focus on anything else. It’s very calming. I thought that maybe one day I would be able to turn the sailing hobby into a profession. This course is respected internationally. ”Yachtmaster” has good industry links that will assist in reaching out professionally.
Gordon Syme, the “Yachtmaster” operator, is unreal. He is ex-military and has patience. I struggle in the course. In the past I would have excelled, now I get nervous. You should see me during the exams! He takes the time and gives you individual help. He’s really good, really approachable; you can ring him any time of night - I even ring to ask questions about my boat! He understands my situation and has rescheduled some of my exams at no additional cost when I’ve been unwell.
The course has given me a new skill. I don’t want to be supported by the military for the rest of my life. If I can do something I love, it will help... a kick in the ass. I know I may not be able to work in some settings, but sailing is something that I think I’ll enjoy, and that will help me return to work.
I’ve found working with other people, and sitting exams, can be challenging. Feeling uneasy because you’re being assessed. I’ve lost a bit of confidence because of my condition. There are only two more modules to complete though now.
I think I will feel pretty proud when I’ve finished my course. I’ve achieved something important to me. Sailing gives me a lot of pleasure. Instead of just milling around I can get out there.
I recommend the DVA rehabilitation program to people as it has helped me in achieving new goals and moving forward with my life.
*Spirit of Mateship – 2014 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Photo by Jo Dilorenzo. Provided by Mates4Mates