BLOG | 14 APR 2022
These are the words we all associate with our diggers. But what about fear, trauma and growth? Anyone who has gone to war or war-torn places also speaks of these. Courage and Bravery despite fear. The fear of going over the top of trenches at ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine or the Somme. The fear when one of your mates is shot dead next to you, or you lay on the battlefield injured, waiting and asking whether anyone is coming. Or in the Kokoda jungle, not seeing the enemy.
These are the experiences of my grandparents and great-grandparents. My great-grandparents were 16 years old when they landed on ANZAC Cove. One a foot soldier, the other a light horseman. My grandfather had just turned 18 years old on the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea. I have two boys the same age, and I don’t want even to imagine what it would be like for them to be sent to war. Yet they went.
One of my great-grandfathers was left in no man’s land for three days at Lone Pine after being injured until someone picked him up (tenacity/ courage resilience). They patched him up and then sent him to the Somme.
According to his war records, he was sent to Fromelle and Ypres before being discharged in 1918. He never passed the rank of private, and they discharged him because of shellshock, which today we would call PTSD. His war records also indicate that he was repeatedly reprimanded for not following orders or being insubordinate. I do wonder whether this saved his life many times.
These soldiers never received any treatment and were sent home believing they could ‘just’ go back to their lives, marry, have a family and work successfully.
Over a hundred years later, we know better the pain, the loss, the conditions and the gut-wrenching fear these soldiers went through. Being sent from one nightmare scenario of war to another after only just escaping with your life each time shows the bravery and courage these soldiers had to continue on. Not only during the war but when they went home.
We do know now anyone who experiences war does not come out unscathed. But what we do know that we didn’t 100 years ago is that if people are treated successfully for their trauma, it becomes post-traumatic growth. Trauma doesn’t magically disappear, but proper treatment can allow them to process the trauma, manage symptoms and triggers when they appear and continue to grow and have successful relationships and careers.
To do this work of people who have been to war also takes courage, bravery, tenacity, resilience and even fear. As this current generation, let us, as one of our ways to show respect and honour to those who currently serve and those who came before them, create an environment where receiving professional psychological help is to be applauded rather than shamed. Where receiving support after deployment is something to be encouraged and not seen as ‘you’ll be right, mate. History shows us not everyone ‘will be right mate’. Let’s learn from our past and shape our future defence to have good long-term physical, mental, and emotional health outcomes.
By jodie humphreys