One of the biggest challenges returning from a war zone is settling back into the routines of a civilian life.
“I’ve found that the hardest thing of all,” Kieron Sewell, who served for 14 years and six months in the Australian infantry, confessed on a recent episode of the ABC’s You Can’t Ask That.
“I walk and I’m constantly assessing things, looking for bombs and stuff under bins.”
Sewell was one of seven recently returned veterans who appeared on the episode which aired three weeks ago but is still available on iView.
The program asks the awkward questions most are too embarrassed to — and gives those with the answers a platform to speak when they usually don’t have one — in this case: how hard is it to come back?
"I don't know what to wear," Sewell said. "I've spent my whole life wearing green and army boots and now I'm wearing shorts to dinner parties or a collared shirt to a work event."
Andrew Fox-Lane who also served for four years in the infantry agreed, he was struck by the paralysis of choice.
"I had trouble with choices. After operating out this tiny, tiny patrol base for months with no choices whatsoever, 'This is what you're doing', 'This is what you're eating' and I'd walk into Woolworths' aisle five and I'd just stand there for five minutes trying to figure it out," he said.
"My partner would laugh at me and say, 'It's not that hard to pick something off the shelf', but it became hard because you're so changed from the experience and what you've become used to."
As former intelligence officer Alex Blane found:
"I went to the supermarket and was sitting there thinking, 'Oh my god'. Confronted with a wall full of shampoo, conditioner, and soap and you think, 'Shit, what do I pick?'"
Aside from serious physical maladies - from cracked kneecaps to traumatic brain injuries to missing limbs - many of the veterans suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder among a raft of other mental health issues, especially those who had witnessed fatalities, or worse, felt they were responsible for them.
While not all believed they would serve again given the opportunity, each said the experience had taught them just how lucky, we are in Australia.
"People in the west are greedy," Sewell said.
"We've got a lot here that we should be happy about and I think a lot people take it for granted."
People often don't understand how soldiers live their lives - on and off the battlefield. #YouCantAskThat gives them the opportunity to clear up some misconceptions.
Posted by ABC TV on Monday, 24 April 2017
Former infantry officer Steve McCrohon said sometimes the lack of awareness had been difficult to swallow:
"I don't want to sound crass or crude here, but I saw a local woman picking corn out of human faeces to go back and recook it so she can feed her kid, and so I come home and my kids don't want to eat their peas."
"You get the shits with first world problems," Blane added.
You Can't Ask That airs Wednesday at 9pm on the ABC. You can watch the episode in full on iview.