By SYLVIA JEFFREYS
In 2008, Bronson Horan’s service in the Australian Army came to end when he was violently thrown across a road by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
The 41 year old suffered serious injuries that day. However, the father-of-three says his most debilitating wounds are those which are not visible to strangers.
“I sometime feel as though circumstances have cheated (my wife) and my children out the man who went away to war”.
It’s estimated one in three Australian servicemen and women suffer mental illness when they return from war. In reality that figure is probably much higher.
Earlier this week I was told two Australian veterans take their own lives every week. Every week. To think these soldiers have survived the atrocities of war, only to succumb to the demons of PTSD is deeply upsetting, although not beyond comprehension.
My father is a Vietnam veteran. I am aware every day of the demons he has fought, and the bouts of depression that still grip him at the age of 64.
On Monday I interviewed Bronson and another two veterans, Kevin Lloyd-Thomas and Greg Cant, for Today Show. Their experiences in combat were starkly different. Their post-war struggles though, have been very similar, underpinned by depression, isolation and a loss of identity.
Kevin Lloyd-Thomas left for Vietnam as a fearless 19 year old. But instead of coming home a hero, he was burdened by a sense of shame for fighting in an unpopular war. He turned to drugs and alcohol and his marriage fell apart.
” I was … contemplating whether to take my own life or not. That happened to me on two or three ocassions.”
Greg Cant’s depression didn’t take hold until he reached his 50s. The memories of working as a medic in Vietnam became overpowering, and he was eventually diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.