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The most debilitating wounds are the ones we cannot see.

Bronson Horan

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.

Sylvia Jeffreys

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.

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“The older you get the harder it gets to hold those memories down and when they start coming back they come back in a big rush”.

These three men are all too aware of the need for greater veteran support, which is why they each – separately – pour energy into helping others fighting the same psychological battles.

Greg is the President of the St Mary’s branch of the Vietnam Veterans’ Association in Sydney. Kevin has solely established the Network for Veteran Success offering tools and guidance for life after combat. While Bronson is an ambassador for Soldier On; an organisation helping to coordinate support networks for wounded soldiers.

Perhaps their commitment is partly a coping mechanism; something positive to focus on to suppress the dark thoughts. Nonetheless, the work they do is crucial as hundreds of Aussie troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan. According to Greg, their transition into life away from war will depend, first and foremost, on a willingness to reach out for help.

“You can’t jeopardise your life and the life of your family, by saying I haven’t got a problem and I’m not going to do something about it”.

Bronson, Kevin and Greg were strangers before Monday. Since swapping stories, they’ve been inspired to combine their efforts by working together on future projects. Their stories filled my eyes with tears, and my heart with sadness. They came home physically unscathed, but their emotional scars have changed the course of their lives.

As we remember those who have fallen, it is also our duty on ANZAC Day, and every other day, to recognise the war wounds we cannot see.

You can watch Sylvia’s report for the TODAY Show here.

Sylvia Jeffreys is a Reporter on Channel Nine’s TODAY Show. Born in Brisbane but based in Sydney, she also presents national daytime bulletins for the network and regularly fills in as a newsreader for Weekend Today. You can follow her on Twitter here and Instagram @SylviaJeffreys.

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